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Prescribed fire and wildfire in clearcut mixed-conifer forests on Miller Creek and Newman Ridge, Montana

Compiler(s): Janet L. Fryer, Janette S. Scher, Marti Crane
Year Published: 2017
Description:

This review summarizes pioneering fire effects research conducted from 1966-1998 on two mixed-conifer sites in western Montana. Researchers studied the effect of fuel loads and fire severity on duff reduction; fire effects to roots and rhizomes of understory species; postfire natural and artificial regeneration of conifer species; patterns of postfire plant succession; and postfire responses of small mammal species. Management objectives were to reduce clearcut logging slash and duff; prepare a mineral seedbed to promote seedling establishment of early-successional conifers, particularly western larch; and to determine the best time to conduct prescribed burning in order to meet those objectives. Late summer and early fall fires on south-, east-, and west-facing slopes consumed the most duff and exposed mineral soil most effectively. Prescribed fires of any severity had little effect on roots and rhizomes buried more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the mineral soil surface. Fire of at least moderate severity was needed to prepare a mineral soil seedbed for early-successional conifers. In general, sites that had a mineral soil seedbed and were relatively free of vegetation favored establishment of western larch. Artificial regeneration of ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, and western larch was most successful when seedlings were planted 1 or 2 years after fire.Herbs dominated early postfire succession, with shrubs becoming dominant from around postfire years 8 to 16, and conifers around postfire year 20. Shade-tolerant conifers such as grand fir established within a few postfire year, especially if fire severity was low. Clearcutting and broadcast burning favored rodents in general and deer mice in particular.

Citation: Fryer, Janet L.; Scher, Janette S.; Crane, Marti, compilers. 2017. Research Project Summary: Prescribed fire and wildfire in clearcut mixed-conifer forests on Miller Creek and Newman Ridge, Montana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Post-fire Management
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Synthesis
NRFSN number: 18265
Record updated: Nov 5, 2018