You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Fuel Loads Vary With Overstory in a Fire-excluded Sierra Nevada Mixed Conifer Forest

Photo of Accumulated forest fuel at the Stanislaus Tuolumne Experimental Forest in California, shown during a prescribed burn in 2013. USDA Forest ServiceAccumulated forest fuel at the Stanislaus Tuolumne Experimental Forest in California, shown during a prescribed burn in 2013. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Surface fuels are highly heterogeneous in their characteristics and spatial distribution, but knowledge of within-stand variability is generally lacking. This study examined relationships between fuel loads and overstory characteristics in a mixed conifer forest, which explained about one-fourth of the variability in fuel loads.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Lydersen, Jamie 
Research Location : Stanislaus Tuolumne Experimental Forest
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 823

Summary

Research and management in forests with altered fire regimes often focus on understanding and manipulating fuels. Fuel loads are difficult to measure because of their inherent variability, but a better understanding of fuel-bed characteristics can aid in evaluating potential fire behavior and effects. Overstory forest structure and composition, which are more readily measured than fuels, would be expected to influence fuel accumulation. Forest Service researchers used intensive tree and fuel measurements in a fire-excluded Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forest to assess relationships and build predictive models for several classes of surface fuel to overstory structure and composition. Overstory variables explained between 16 and 29 percent of the variation in fuel load. Greater canopy cover and white fir abundance were associated with greater total fuel loads, while greater pine abundance was associated with lower load of fine woody fuels and greater load of litter. Duff load was positively associated with total basal area and negatively associated with oak abundance. Knowledge of relationships contributing to within-stand variation in fuel loads can increase our understanding of fuel accumulation and improve our ability to anticipate fine-scale variability in fire behavior and effects in mixed species stands.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Brandon Collins, Eric Knapp
  • Gary Roller, Scott Stephens