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Effects of Biomass Removal Treatments on Stand-Level Fire Characteristics in Major Forest Types of the Northern Rocky Mountains

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Removal of dead and live biomass from forested stands affects subsequent fuel dynamics and fire potential. The amount of material left onsite after biomass removal operations can influence the intensity and severity of subsequent unplanned wildfires or prescribed burns. We developed a set of biomass removal treatment scenarios and simulated their effects on a number of stands that represent two major forests types of the northern Rocky Mountains: lodgepole and ponderosa pine. The Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator was used to simulate effects including stand development, fire behavior, and fire effects prior to the biomass removal treatment and 1, 10, 30, and 60 years after the treatment. Analysis of variance was used to determine whether these changes in fuel dynamics and fire potential differed significantly from each other. Results indicated that fire and fuel characteristics varied within and between forest types and depended on the nature of the treatment, as well as time since treatment. Biomass removal decreased fire potential in the short term, but results were mixed over the long term.
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Keywords: fire behavior; fire effects; fire hazard; fuel treatment; mastication; whole tree harvest

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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