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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Icon of magnifying glassCompanion Studies to Tripod Complex Fire Research

Team Lead: Susan Prichard


Severity in Regenerating Stands

Studies have shown significant relationships between fire severity and fuel treatment residue, but have focused on forest types with mixed-severity and low fire regimes that are not typical of all dry forest systems in the West.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on the east side of the Cascade Range in Washington has implemented silvicultural treatments to increase regeneration and reduce fire risk, including several fuel reduction strategies to alter fire behavior: thinning, prescribed fire, and small clearcuts. Clearcuts, also called regeneration cuts, coupled with prescribed fire, were implemented specifically to promote regeneration of tree species, including ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and western larch.

In 2006, the 80,000-ha Tripod Complex Fire burned through many of these fuel-treatment and regeneration cut areas, providing an opportunity to analyze the relationship between forest management and wildfire dynamics.

University of Washington graduate student Christina Lyons-Tinsley, along with FERA's field crew, analyzed fire severity in regenerating stands to determine how fuels and other factors contributed to surface fire intensity and spread.

Lyons-Tinsley, C. 2009. Forest heterogeneity and surface fires affect wildfire severity in a mixed conifer forest, eastside Cascade Range, Washington, USA. Seattle, WA: University of Washington. M.S. Thesis

Lyons-Tinsley, C and D.L. Peterson. 2012. Surface fuel treatments in young, regenerating stands affect wildfire severity in a mixed conifer forest, eastside Cascade Range, Washington, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 270: 117-125.

Impact of Fuel Treatments on Carbon Emissions

Over the summers of 2008 and 2009, the NASA Ames DEVELOP Program worked on projects in conjunction with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Service in eastern Washington. The 2009 project used ground-based measurements and satellite imagery to evaluate the impact of fuel treatments on carbon emissions during the Tripod Complex fire. Two fuel treatments -- partial harvests alone, and with prescribed burns -- were selected.  Ground-based measurements were sampled on thirty-five, 30-m2 sites inside the Tripod fire scar to determine forest biomass.  The biomass measurements were converted to carbon and compared to vegetation indices and gross primary productivity derived from MODIS and Landsat satellite imagery to evaluate the change in carbon sequestration rates of the ecosystem pre and post fire.  The net carbon flux into the atmosphere from the wildfire was determined by comparing satellite measurements before and after the fire for each fuel treatment type.

DEVELOP students worked with Dr. Susan Prichard of the Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory.  NASA mentors associated with DEVELOP at Ames are Dr. Jay Skiles and Cindy Schmidt of the Ecosystem Science and Technology Branch. 

Newcomer, M.; Delgado, D.; Gantenbein, C.; Wang, T.; Schiffman, B.; Prichard, S.; Schmidt, C.; Skiles, J.W. 2009. Burn severity assessment in the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest using NASA satellite missions. (20 June 2013)/


We acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program under Projects #07-1-2-13 and #09-1-01-9.

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