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RMRS-GTR-132: Postfire mortality of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir: a review of methods to predict tree death


Fowler, James F.; Sieg, Carolyn Hull. 2004. Postfire mortality of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir: a review of methods to predict tree death. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-132. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 25 p.

This review focused on the primary literature that described, modeled, or predicted the probability of postfire mor-tality in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The methods and measure-ments that were used to predict postfire tree death tended to fall into two general categories: those focusing on measuring important aspects of fire behavior, the indirect but ultimate cause of mortality; and those focusing on tissue damage due to fire, the direct effect of fire on plant organs. Of the methods reviewed in this paper, crown scorch volume was the most effective, easiest to use, and most popular measurement in predicting postfire mor-tality in both conifer species. In addition to this direct measure of foliage damage, several studies showed the im-portance and utility of adding a measurement of stem (bole) damage. There is no clear method of choice for this, but direct assessment of cambium condition near the tree base is widely used in Douglas-fir. Only two ponder-osa pine studies directly measured fine root biomass changes due to fire, but they did not use these measure-ments to predict postfire mortality. Indirect measures of fire behavior such as ground char classes may be the most practical choice for measuring root damage. This review did not find clear postfire survivability differences between the two species. The literature also does not show a consistent use of terminology; we propose a stan-dard set of terms and their definitions.

Key words: Pinus ponderosa, Pseudotsuga menziesii, wildfire, prescribed burn, crown scorch, bole char, ground char, fire intensity


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Title: RMRS-GTR-132: Postfire mortality of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir: a review of methods to predict tree death
Electronic Publish Date: June 16, 2004
Last Update:
February 13, 2009

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