USDA Forest Service

Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Icon of magnifying glassFuel Consumption and Flammability Thresholds in Shrub-Dominated Ecosystems

Shrub consumption research near Dillon, Montana Final Report [.pdf 955 kb]

Consume 3.0 Factsheet

Wright, C.S., N.L. Troyer and R.E. Vihnanek. 2003. Monitoring fuel consumption and mortality from prescribed burning in old-growth ponderosa pine stands in eastern Oregon. Proceedings of the 5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress. Orlando, Florida.
Full text [.pdf]

Research to quantify fuel consumption and flammability in shrub-dominated ecosystems has received little attention despite the widespread occurrence of fire-influenced, shrub-dominated landscapes across the arid lands of the western United States. While some research has addressed issues relating to fire behavior in some shrub-dominated ecosystems, quantification of fuel consumption is critical for effective modeling of fire effects (e.g., smoke emissions, regional haze, erosion, plant succession, etc.) and landscape management. Preliminary research in this arena generated hypotheses as to the controlling mechanisms for fuel consumption in shrub fuel types that require testing through field-based experimentation.

The primary objective of this research was to improve existing fuel consumption models for sagebrush fuel types and to develop new models for additional shrub-dominated fuel types for incorporation into a module for, or a new version of the software package CONSUME. This research also addressed issues related to seasonal live fuel moisture and weather patterns and their relations to flammability in shrub-dominated fuel types. Making fuel and fire management decision support tools, such as CONSUME, more robust will aid managers, planners and researchers in developing environmentally, socially and legally responsible land management plans. This research allows for more effective and informed use of fire behavior, fire effects, emission production and wildfire/prescribed fire trade-off models providing for better wildland fire emissions and fire effects accounting and planning at local, regional, national and global scales.

Fuel loading, fuel consumption, fuel moisture, site conditions, and fire weather were measured on a series of operational prescribed fires in big sagebrush (n=16), pine flatwoods (n=40), chamise chaparral (n=12), and pitch pine scrub (n=7) ecosystem types with a particular focus on consumption of the standing shrub biomass. Multiple linear regression models to predict fuel consumption from fuel and environmental variables are being developed and programmed into the software package CONSUME, an application for predicting fuel consumption and emissions for fire, fuel and smoke management planning. Relations between plant dimensions and biomass, and plant cover, height and biomass are also being developed to allow non-destructive biomass estimation from common and easy-to-make measurements.

Team Lead: Clint Wright

Collaborators: Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense

Logo of the Joint Fire Science ProgramWe acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program under Project JFSP 03-1-3-06.



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