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Mixed Conifer Forest Duff Consumption during Prescribed Fires: Tree Crown Impacts

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Fire suppression has produced large forest floor fuel loads in many coniferous forests in western North America. This study describes spatial patterns of duff consumption in a mixed-conifer forest in the north-central Sierra Nevada, California. Overstory crown coverage was correlated to spatial patterns of duff depth after prescribed fire. On one site that was burned under dry conditions, almost all duff was consumed, with some remaining in overstory gaps. On a second site that was burned under moist conditions a few days after the first annual precipitation, strong spatial patterns of duff consumption were recorded with increasing distance from the base of the nearest overstory tree, the probability of duff remaining after prescribed fire increased significantly. There is strong evidence that spatial variation of precipitation throughfall resulted in higher duff moisture in gaps, whereas duff beneath crown cover was drier, and therefore, totally consumed. This study demonstrates that including a spatial component in a process-based duff consumption model would improve the accuracy of fire-effect predictions. FOR. SCI. 51(5):417–424.

Keywords: Forest fire; Sierra Nevada; environmental management; fire effects; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; ground fuels; natural resource management; natural resources; restoration; smoldering combustion

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group Wageningen University and Research Centre P.O. Box 47 Wageningen AA The Netherlands 6700 2: Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Department, Division of Ecosystem Science University of California 137 Mulford Hall Berkeley CA 94720-3114 Phone: (510) 642-7304, Email:

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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