Ecological - Second Order
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Changes in vegetation and fuels were evaluated from measurements taken before and after fuel reduction treatments (prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and the combination of the two) at 12 Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) sites located in forests with a surface fire regime across the conterminous United States. To test the relative effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments and their effect on ecological parameters we used an information-theoretic approach on a suite of 12 variables representing the overstory (basal area and live tree, sapling, and snag density), the understory (seedling density, shrub cover, and native and alien herbaceous species richness), and the most relevant fuel parameters for wildfire damage (height to live crown, total fuel bed mass, forest floor mass, and woody fuel mass).
In the short term (one year after treatment), mechanical treatments were more effective at reducing overstory tree density and basal area and at increasing quadratic mean tree diameter. Prescribed fire treatments were more effective at creating snags, killing seedlings, elevating height to live crown, and reducing surface woody fuels. Overall, the response to fuel reduction treatments of the ecological variables presented in this paper was generally maximized by the combined mechanical plus burning treatment. If the management goal is to quickly produce stands with fewer and larger diameter trees, less surface fuel mass, and greater herbaceous species richness, the combined treatment gave the most desirable results. However, because mechanical plus burning treatments also favored alien species invasion at some sites, monitoring and control need to be part of the prescription when using this treatment.