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Simulating fuel treatment effects in dry forests of the western United States: testing the principles of a fire-safe forest

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We used the Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FFE-FVS) to simulate fuel treatment effects on 45 162 stands in low- to midelevation dry forests (e.g., ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex. P. & C. Laws.) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) of the western United States. We evaluated treatment effects on predicted post-treatment fire behavior (fire type) and fire hazard (torching index). FFE-FVS predicts that thinning and surface fuel treatments reduced crown fire behavior relative to no treatment; a large proportion of stands were predicted to transition from active crown fire pre-treatment to surface fire post-treatment. Intense thinning treatments (125 and 250 residual trees┬Ěha–1) were predicted to be more effective than light thinning treatments (500 and 750 residual trees┬Ěha–1). Prescribed fire was predicted to be the most effective surface fuel treatment, whereas FFE-FVS predicted no difference between no surface fuel treatment and extraction of fuels. This inability to discriminate the effects of certain fuel treatments illuminates the consequence of a documented limitation in how FFE-FVS incorporates fuel models and we suggest improvements. The concurrence of results from modeling and empirical studies provides quantitative support for “fire-safe” principles of forest fuel reduction (sensu Agee and Skinner 2005. For. Ecol. Manag. 211: 83–96).

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 400 North 34th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98103, USA. 2: College of the Environment, School of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195-2100, USA.

Publication date: May 19, 2011

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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