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Thinning and prescribed fire effects on overstory tree and snag structure in dry coniferous forests of the interior Pacific Northwest

Posted date: April 07, 2010
Publication Year: 
2009
Authors: Harrod, Richy J.; Peterson, David W.; Povak, Nicholas A.; Dodson, Erich Kyle
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest Ecology and Management -- Doi: 10.1016/J.foreco.2009.05.011

Abstract

Forest thinning and prescribed fires are practices used by managers to address concerns over ecosystem degradation and severe wildland fire potential in dry forests. There is some debate, however, about treatment effectiveness in meeting management objectives as well as their ecological consequences. The purpose of this study was to assess changes to forest stand structure following thinning and prescribed fire treatments, alone and combined, in the eastern Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Treatments were applied to 12 management units, with each treatment combination replicated three times (including untreated controls). Thinning modified forest structure by reducing overall tree density by >60% and canopy bulk density by 50%,and increased canopy base height by ~4 m, thereby reducing susceptibility to crown fire. The prescribed fire treatment, conversely, did not appreciably reduce tree density or canopy fuel loading, but was effective at increasing the density of standing dead trees, particularly when combined with thinning (37 snags/ha increase). Prescribed fire effects were more pronounced when used in combination with thinning. Thinning was more reliable for altering stand structure, but spring burning was lower in intensity and coverage than desired and may have led to results that downplay the efficacy of fire to meet forest restoration goals.

Citation

Harrod, Richy J.; Peterson, David W.; Povak, Nicholas A.; Dodson, Erich K. 2009. Thinning and prescribed fire effects on overstory tree and snag structure in dry coniferous forests of the interior Pacific Northwest. Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 712-721.