Effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments

Assessing metrics of forest resiliency and wildfire severity after the Wallow Fire, AZ

Amy E M Waltz, Michael T. Stoddard, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Judith D. Springer, David W. Huffman, Andrew J Sanchez Meador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Landscape-scale wildfire has occurred in higher frequencies across the planet. Fuel reduction treatments to fire-adapted systems have been shown to reduce the impact to human values-at-risk. However, few studies have examined if these treatments contribute to ecosystem resilience, or the capacity of a system to absorb perturbation and return to a similar set of structures or processes. We defined short-term metrics of resiliency to test the hypothesis that fuel reduction treatments in mixed conifer forests increased a fire-adapted system's resiliency to uncharacteristically severe wildfire. In addition, we tested the hypothesis that fuel reduction treatments reduced burn severity, thereby increasing protection for adjacent human communities. We examined a mixed conifer forested landscape in the southwestern U.S. that was burned by a landscape-scale "mega-fire" in 2011; fuel reduction treatments had been established around communities in the 10. years prior to the fire. Fire effects were highly variable in both treated and untreated forests. However, analysis of resiliency metrics showed that: (a) treated units retained a higher proportion of large trees and had post-fire tree densities within the natural range of variability; (b) the understory herbaceous community had significantly higher cover of native grasses in the treated units, but no significant differences in nonnative cover between treated and untreated units; and (c) high-severity patch sizes were significantly larger in untreated stands and covered a larger proportion of the landscape than historical reference conditions. Fire severity, as defined by overstory mortality and basal area loss, was significantly lower in treated units; on average, trees killed per hectare in untreated units was six times the number of trees killed in treated units. Fuel reduction treatments simultaneously reduced fire severity and enhanced short-term metrics of ecosystem resiliency to uncharacteristically severe fire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume334
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 5 2014

Fingerprint

wildfires
wildfire
fire severity
coniferous tree
forest fires
overstory
mixed forests
basal area
ecosystem resilience
coniferous forests
conifers
understory
patch size
grasses
ecosystems
planet
perturbation
grass
mortality
ecosystem

Keywords

  • Herbaceous community
  • Mega-fire
  • Reference conditions
  • Restoration
  • Treatment effectiveness
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

Cite this

Effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments : Assessing metrics of forest resiliency and wildfire severity after the Wallow Fire, AZ. / Waltz, Amy E M; Stoddard, Michael T.; Kalies, Elizabeth L.; Springer, Judith D.; Huffman, David W.; Sanchez Meador, Andrew J.

In: Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 334, 05.12.2014, p. 43-52.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Waltz, Amy E M ; Stoddard, Michael T. ; Kalies, Elizabeth L. ; Springer, Judith D. ; Huffman, David W. ; Sanchez Meador, Andrew J. / Effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments : Assessing metrics of forest resiliency and wildfire severity after the Wallow Fire, AZ. In: Forest Ecology and Management. 2014 ; Vol. 334. pp. 43-52.
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