USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Particulate emissions from biomass burning: quantification of the contributions from residential wood combustion, forest fires, and prescribed fires

sample pile burn with instruments to sample smoke.
Researchers at the Desert Research Institute use instruments to sample smoke from a pile burn as part of their research to identify chemical "fingerprints" that can distinguish particles derived from residential wood combustion, wildfires, and prescribed fires. This information would help to determine how much these different sources are contributing to air quality problems in the Tahoe basin. Photo: Daniel Obrist, DRI.

Principal Investigators:
Daniel Obrist, Desert Research Institute
Alan Gertler, Desert Research Institute
Barbara Zielinska, Desert Research Institute

Proposal [pdf]

Final Report [pdf]

Please contact Dr. Daniel Obrist with questions regarding the publication.

Project Summary

Biomass burning is a significant source of PM2.5 (i.e., particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 µm), but few studies have addressed the chemical composition of PM2.5 emissions from various types of fires. This study quantified PM2.5 emissions from various types of prescribed burning activities using analysis of carbon, polar organic compounds, water-soluble potassium, and particle-bound mercury.

Emissions were characterized for a series of prescribed burns in the Lake Tahoe Basin and controlled biomass combustion in a wood stove. In the field, emissions were collected from: 1) landscape underburns, 2) pile burns, and 3) mixed underburn/pile burns. In a wood stove, burns included different fuel types from the Tahoe Basin, including logs, green foliage and branches from shrubs, and duff.