Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl

Date:
July 24, 2012
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
The northern spotted owl, a threatened species in the Pacific Northwest, would actually benefit in the long run from active management of the forest lands that form its primary habitat and are increasingly vulnerable to stand-replacing fire.

Surviving trees. Some advance thinning and fuel reduction before the 2003 Davis Lake Fire in Oregon allowed at least some trees to survive.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Oregon State University

The northern spotted owl, a threatened species in the Pacific Northwest, would actually benefit in the long run from active management of the forest lands that form its primary habitat and are increasingly vulnerable to stand-replacing fire, researchers conclude in a recent study.

Whatever short-term drawbacks there may be from logging, thinning, or other fuel reduction activities in areas with high fire risk would be more than offset by improved forest health and fire-resistance characteristics, the scientists said, which allow more spotted owl habitat to survive in later decades.

Decades of fire suppression and a "hands-off" approach to management on many public lands have created overcrowded forests that bear little resemblance to their historic condition -- at the expense of some species such as the northern spotted owl, researchers said.

The findings were published in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal, by researchers from Oregon State University and Michigan State University.

"For many years now, for species protection as well as other reasons, we've avoided almost all management on many public forest lands," said John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.

"The problem is that fire doesn't respect the boundaries we create for wildlife protection," Bailey said. "Given the current condition of Pacific Northwest forests, the single biggest threat facing spotted owls and other species is probably stand-replacement wildfire."

In the recent project, scientists used computer models to compare what would happen to vulnerable forest lands if they were managed, or simply left alone. They found that over a long-term period of about the next 75 years, active management of sites with high fire hazard would be more favorable for spotted owl conservation.

A "risk averse" strategy in fire-prone landscapes is not the best long-term alternative to conserve protected species, they said.

As years go by, forest conditions will continue to get even more crowded, insect and disease epidemics will increase, and forests will face stress from a warmer and often drier climate. Fire levels will increase and the problem will only get worse, Bailey said.

"Without active management to reduce risks, we never really put fire out, we just delay it," he said. "We can keep kicking the can down the road, but sooner or later a stand-replacing fire will come that we can't put out. Then the fires are enormous."

Historically, Pacific Northwest forests, in both the wetter conditions west of the Cascade Range and especially the drier forests east of the mountains, were subject to higher frequency of fire, fewer trees with less overall biomass, and healthier forest conditions at a lower tree density than today. Many fires did not climb into the tree canopies and kill the tree, and even stand-replacement fires were more limited in size and scope.

A return to such conditions would significantly change the shape of modern forests, in the process producing more forest products and perhaps nurture a biofuels industry. But it would also result in less overall biomass and less sequestration of carbon, a factor in global warming concerns. The result, however, would be forests that more closely resembled their historic status and protected a wider range of species, including the northern spotted owl, Bailey said.

This analysis focused on fire-prone areas, the researchers said, and they also noted that a broad commitment to such an approach would be needed. Models suggested that more than 20 percent of a fire-prone landscape would need to be treated to begin altering fire behavior and reduce loss of spotted owl habitat.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oregon State University. "Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724144530.htm>.
Oregon State University. (2012, July 24). Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724144530.htm
Oregon State University. "Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724144530.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins