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




Morris Johnson

Photo of Morris Johnson

Research Interests

  • Forest Structure and Fire Hazard
  • Simulation Modeling

Project Summaries

Fuels Planning: Science Synthesis and Integration

A century of fire suppression has created heavy fuel loads in many U.S. forests, leading to increasingly intense wildfires. Addressing this problem will require widespread fuels treatments, yet fuels treatment planners do not always have access to the current scientific information that can help guide their planning process. The Fuels Planning: Science Synthesis and Integration project was launched to compile relevant fuels treatment information for managers. Products include syntheses on various topics, a guidebook on silvicultural prescriptions, a set of models and information databases on possible environmental effects of fuels treatments, and a financial analysis tool for estimating costs and revenues of fuels treatments. The Fuels Planning project provides an example of how collaboration between managers and scientists can improve the utility of scientific findings. It is currently forming partnerships with several National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) interdisciplinary teams who will use these decision support tools in planning fuels reduction projects starting in the summer of 2005.

Guide to Fuel Treatments in Dry Forests of the Western United States: Assessing Forest Structure and Fire Hazard

Guide to Fuel Treatments analyzes a range of fuel treatments for representative dry forest stands in the Western United States with overstories dominated by ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and pinyon pine (Pinus edulis). Six silvicultural options (no thinning; thinning from below to 50 trees per acre [tpa], 100 tpa, 200 tpa, and 300 tpa; and prescribed fire) are considered in combination with three surface fuel treatments (no treatment, pile and burn, and prescribed fire), resulting in a range of alternative treatments for each representative stand. The Fire and Fuels Extension of the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FFE-FVS) was used to calculate the immediate effects of treatments on surface fuels, fire hazard, potential fire behavior, and forest structure. The FFE-FVS was also used to calculate a 50-year time series of treatment effects at 10-year increments. Usually, thinning to 50 to 100 tpa and an associated surface fuel treatment were shown to be necessary to alter potential fire behavior from crown fire to surface fire under severe fire weather conditions. This level of fuel treatment generally was predicted to maintain potential fire behavior as surface fire for 30 to 40 years, depending on how fast regeneration occurs in the understory, after which additional fuel treatment would be necessary to maintain surface fire behavior. Fuel treatment scenarios presented here can be used by resource managers to examine alternatives for National Environmental Policy Act documents and other applications that require scientifically based information to quantify the effects of modifying forest structure and surface fuels.

Cedar River Municipal Watershed Fire Hazard Assessment

Fire hazard in the Cedar River Municipal Watershed (CRMW) was assessed in order to provide information needed to reconcile ecological restoration and fire management with respect to fuel loadings across the landscape. Specifically the assessment (1) characterizes vegetation patterns and distribution, (2) describes and quantifies current and potential wildfire hazard, (3) develops and simulates potential thinnings and surface fuel treatments to identify options for addressing and minimizing fire hazard, and (4) develops maps of current and predicted fire hazard. The Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FFE-FVS) was used to quantify fuels for different forest classifications and to predict the characteristics and effects of a fire should one occur during warm, dry weather conditions.

Cedar River Municipal Watershed Decomposition Study

This study provides fine-scale temporal data on fuel succession to inform the coarse-scale assessment of fire hazard for different management options. The objectives of this study are: (1) quantify fuelbed characteristics (e.g., fuelbed loadings and fuelbed depth) in stands that were thinned at different times, (2) examine the effect of surface fuel treatments on fuelbeds, and (3) estimate fuel loading residence time.

Curriculum Vitae [.html][.pdf]

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