Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (489 KB bytes)

Title: Conserving old-growth forest diversity in disturbance-prone landscapes.

Author: Spies, Thomas A.; Hemstrom, Miles A.; Youngblood, Andrew; Hummel, Susan.;

Date: 2006

Source: Conservation Biology. 20(2): 351-362

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: A decade after its creation, the Northwest Forest Plan is contributing to the conservation of old growth forests on federal land. However, the success and outlook for the plan are questionable in the dry provinces, where losses of old growth to wildfire have been relatively high and risks of further loss remain. We summarize the state of knowledge of old-growth forests in the plan area, identify challenges to conserve them, and suggest some conservation approaches that might better meet the goals of the plan. Historically, old growth forests in these provinces ranged from open, patchy stands, maintained by frequent low-severity fire, to a mosaic of dense and open stands maintained by mixed-severity fires. Old-growth structure and composition were spatially heterogeneous, varied strongly with topography and elevation, and were shaped by a complex disturbance regime of fire, insects, and disease. With fire suppression and cutting of large pines (Pinus spp.) and Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirbel] Franco), old-growth diversity has declined and dense understories have developed across large areas. Challenges to conserving these forests include a lack of definitions needed for planning of fire-dependent old-growth stands and landscapes, and conflicts in conservation goals that can be resolved only at the landscape level. Fire suppression has increased the area of the dense, older forest favored by Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) but increased the probability of high-severity fire. The plan allows for fuel reduction in late-successional reserves; fuel treatments, however, apparently have not happened at a high enough rate or been applied in a landscape-level approach. Landscape-level strategies are needed that prioritize fuel treatments by vegetation zones, develop shaded fuel breaks in strategic positions, and thin and apply prescribed fire to reduce ladder fuels around remaining old trees. Evaluations of the current and alternative strategies are needed to determine whether the current reserve-matrix approach is the best strategy to meet plan goals in these dynamic landscapes.

Keywords: ecosystem management, fire, forest dynamics, Northwest Forest Plan

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Spies, Thomas A.; Hemstrom, Miles A.; Youngblood, Andrew; Hummel, Susan. 2006. Conserving old-growth forest diversity in disturbance-prone landscapes. Conservation Biology. 20(2): 351-362


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.