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RMRS-RP-55: Wildland fire effects in silviculturally treated vs. untreated stands of New Mexico and Arizona.


Cram, D.; Baker, T.; Boren, J. 2006. Wildland fire effects in silviculturally treated vs. untreated stands of New Mexico and Arizona. Research Paper RMRS-RP-55. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 28 p.

Stand-replacement fires, particularly in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests, have replaced highfrequency, low-intensity historical fire regimes. We examined whether forest stands treated recently using silvicultural practices would be (1) less susceptible to stand-replacing crownfires, and (2) more ecologically and functionally resilient compared to untreated stands following extreme wildland fire. Reports detailing wildland fire behavior in treated stands remain largely anecdotal. We compared fire severity indices, fireline intensity (btu/ft/s), stand characteristics including canopy bulk density (kg/m3), and post-fire recovery indices in silviculturally treated vs. untreated forest stands in New Mexico and Arizona. Results indicated fire severity in pine-grassland forests was lowered when surface and aerial fuel loads were reduced. Specifically, as density (stems/ac) and basal area (ft2/ac) decreased and mean tree diameter (in) increased, fire severity and fireline intensity decreased. The more aggressive the treatment (i.e., where the canopy bulk density was reduced), the less susceptible forest stands were to crownfire. However, mechanical treatments where slash was scattered rendered stands susceptible to near stand-replacement type damage when wildfire occurred within 4 years of treatment. On our study sites, mechanical treatment followed by prescribed fire had the greatest impact toward mitigating fire severity (i.e., aerial and surface fuels were reduced). Treated stands were also more ecologically and functionally resilient than untreated forest stands following wildland fire.

Keywords: canopy bulk density, fire behavior, fire ecology, fire severity, ponderosa pine, silviculture


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Title: RMRS-RP-55: Wildland fire effects in silviculturally treated vs. untreated stands of New Mexico and Arizona.
Publish Date: February 16, 2006
Last Update:
January 14, 2010

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