PORTLAND, Ore. August 25, 2010. A study
conducted by U.S. Forest Service and University of Washington (UW)
scientists has found that fuel treatments—even of only a
few acres—can reduce fire severity and protect older trees
desirable for their timber, wildlife, and carbon-storage value.
The finding is part of a three-year study of the 175,000-acre Tripod
Fire and is published in the August issue of Canadian Journal of
This study provides the most definitive evidence yet of the effectiveness
of fuel treatments in dry forests of the Pacific Northwest,” said
Susan Prichard, a UW research scientist and senior author of the
study. “If dense forests are thinned and the surface fuels
are removed, then ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees have a better
chance of surviving an intense wildfire.”
Prichard and her
Forest Service colleagues quantified tree mortality on the Okanogan-Wenatchee
National Forest in an area affected by
the 2006 Tripod Fire, which burned through forested areas managed
to reduce potential fire hazard. Because of the management history
of the area, the researchers were able to compare untreated stands,
stands that were thinned, and stands that were thinned and then
underwent prescribed burns to remove surface fuels.
the comparison revealed that the Tripod Complex fires killed
over 80% of trees in stands without treatment and in stands
with thinning only. Nearly 60% of trees survived in stands with
thinning plus fuel treatment, and three-quarters of larger trees—those
with diameters larger than 8 inches—survived.
It’s all about fuels—dead fuels on the ground add energy
to wildfire and carry it across the landscape and dense stands
of live trees and shrubs act as fuel ladders, moving fire into
the canopy,” said Dave Peterson, a research biologist with
the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station who
coauthored the study. “The objective of fuel treatments is
not to eliminate wildfires, but to reduce their intensity in areas
where we want to protect resources.”
If, as expected, a warmer
climate causes an increase in wildfire in future decades, conducting
fuel treatments in forest ecosystems
will be an important tool for reducing damage from fire and increasing
resilience to climate change.
If we implement treatments across large areas and place them strategically,
we can manage these low-elevation forests sustainably, even in
a warmer climate,” Peterson said.
To view the article’s
abstract online, visit http://rparticle.web-p.cisti.nrc.ca/rparticle/AbstractTemplateServlet?calyLang=eng&journal=cjfr&volume=40&year=0&issue=8&msno=x10-109.
The PNW Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
It has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Oregon, and
Washington and about 425 employees.