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On Conducting a Multisite, Multidisciplinary Forestry Research Project: Lessons from the National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study

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The National Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) study is described, from its conceptual stage in early 1996 to the completion of its short-term phase in May 2006. Comprising 12 sites, the FFS study is a comprehensive multidisciplinary experiment designed to evaluate the economics and ecological consequences of alternative fuel reduction treatments in seasonally dry forests of the United States. The FFS study uses a common experimental design across the 12-site network, with each site consisting of a fully replicated experiment that compares four treatments: an unmanipulated control, prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and mechanical + fire. We measured operational costs and variables within several components of the ecosystem, including vegetation, the fuel bed, soils, bark beetles, tree diseases, and wildlife in the same 10-ha experimental units. This design allowed us to assemble a fairly complete picture of ecosystem response to treatment at the site scale, and to compare treatment response across sites representing a wide variety of conditions. We offer the FFS study as a model for conducting a complex multidisciplinary management experiment focused on natural resource issues. We then discuss why we believe it was successful and how it could be improved. We discuss seven key features that we believe must be considered to conduct a successful multidisciplinary experiment: funding, design, partnerships, organization, standardization, data management, and outreach. Although experiments such as the FFS study are difficult to execute, they may be our best hope for answering some of our more pressing questions in the field of natural resource management.
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Keywords: dry forests; forest thinning; fuel reduction; mechanical treatments; prescribed fire

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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  • Important Notice: SAF's journals are now published through partnership with the Oxford University Press. Access to archived material will be available here on the Ingenta website until March 31, 2018. For new material, please access the journals via OUP's website. Note that access via Ingenta will be permanently discontinued after March 31, 2018. Members requiring support to access SAF's journals via OUP's site should contact SAF's membership department for assistance.

    Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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