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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Postfire Logging Reduces Future Surface Woody Fuels in Dry Coniferous Forests

Photo of A burned stand that has not been salvaged logged. USDA Forest ServiceA burned stand that has not been salvaged logged. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Severe wildfires create pulses of dead trees that influence future fuel loads, fire behavior, and fire effects as they decay and deposit surface woody fuels. Harvesting fire-killed trees may reduce future surface woody fuels and related fire hazards, but the magnitude and timing of postfire logging effects on woody fuels have not been fully assessed.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Peterson, David W. 
Research Location : Washington
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 790


A regional survey of surface woody fuels in dry coniferous forest stands that burned with high severity between 1970 and 2007 showed that in unlogged stands, surface woody fuel levels were low shortly after wildfire, peaked 10 to 20 years after wildfire, and then declined gradually out to 39 years after wildfire. Stands that were logged shortly after wildfire had higher levels of surface woody fuels than unlogged stands for the first 5 to 7 years after fire, but then had lower levels of surface woody fuels from 10 to 39 years after fire.This study shows that postfire logging can significantly reduce future surface woody fuels in forests regenerating following wildfires. The amount of fuel reduction depends on the volume and sizes of wood removed, logging methods, post-logging fuel treatments, and amounts of coarse woody debris left on-site to support wildlife habitat, erosion control, and other competing management objectives. This study provides a sound scientific basis for forest managers to consider fuel management goals along with recovery of economic value and wildlife habitat concerns when deciding when and where to propose postfire logging.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
  • Joint Fire Science Program
  • Oregon State University