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Fuel Removal And Prescribed Burns Reduce Wildfire Severity But May Invite Invasives

Date:
March 21, 2009
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
Scientists compared the effectiveness of fire fuel reduction methods under the U.S. National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study. Four articles examine the effects of prescribed burns, mechanical treatment (usually thinning of the smallest trees) and a combination of both with control plots at 12 study sites in forests across the United States.

Scientists compared the effectiveness of fire fuel reduction methods under the U.S. National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study. Four articles examine the effects of prescribed burns, mechanical treatment (usually thinning of the smallest trees) and a combination of both with control plots at 12 study sites in forests across the United States.

Many U.S. forests once experienced frequent natural fires that removed many of the low-lying plants, including downed woody plants, shrubs and grasses that fueled these burns. But human activities, such as livestock grazing, preferential logging of large trees and outright fire suppression or exclusion have led to changes in forest structure. Increases in tree density, smaller tree size and increased fuel load place as many as 10 million hectares of U.S. forest at high risk of hazardous fires, the authors write.

Under extreme weather conditions, the authors found that prescribed fire alone, a combination of prescribed fire and mechanical fuel removal, and fuel removal alone were all effective at reducing fire severity. More specifically, they report that to quickly restore forests with few, large-diameter trees, a combination of prescribed burns and mechanical fuel removal achieved the best results.

The authors note, however, that this combination treatment also favored nonnative species invasions at some sites. In addition, a combination of prescribed burns and mechanical thinning increased the incidence of tree death from bark beetles and wood borers. Still, the authors emphasize that a no-treatment option is not sustainable in these fire-prone environments. They recommend caution and case-by-case assessments of best management practices for different forest types.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. McIver et al. The national fire and fire surrogate study: Ecological consequences of alternative fuel reduction methods in seasonally dry forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 2008; 255 (8-9): 3075 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2008.01.035

Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "Fuel Removal And Prescribed Burns Reduce Wildfire Severity But May Invite Invasives." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319121552.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2009, March 21). Fuel Removal And Prescribed Burns Reduce Wildfire Severity But May Invite Invasives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319121552.htm
Ecological Society of America. "Fuel Removal And Prescribed Burns Reduce Wildfire Severity But May Invite Invasives." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319121552.htm (accessed October 19, 2014).

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