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Gordon H. Reeves, Peter A. Bisson, Bruce E. Rieman, Lee E. Benda
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Management Approaches
Post-fire Management
Salvage Logging
Riparian woodland/shrubland

NRFSN number: 8126
FRAMES RCS number: 4969
Record updated:

We reviewed the behavior of wildfire in riparian zones, primarily in the western United States, and the potential ecological consequences of postfire logging. Fire behavior in riparian zones is complex, but many aquatic and riparian organisms exhibit a suite of adaptations that allow relatively rapid recovery after fire. Unless constrained by other factors, fish tend to rebound relatively quickly, usually within a decade after a wildfire. Additionally, fire and subsequent erosion events contribute wood and coarse sediment that can create and maintain productive aquatic habitats over time. The potential effects of postfire logging in riparian areas depend on the landscape context and disturbance history of a site; however, available evidence suggests two key management implications: (1) fire in riparian areas creates conditions that may not require intervention to sustain the long-term productivity of the aquatic network and (2) protection of burned riparian areas gives priority to what is left rather than what is removed. Research is needed to determine how postfire logging in riparian areas has affected the spread of invasive species and the vulnerability of upland forests to insect and disease outbreaks and how postfire logging will affect the frequency and behavior of future fires. The effectiveness of using postfire logging to restore desired riparian structure and function is therefore unproven, but such projects are gaining interest with the departure of forest conditions from those that existed prior to timber harvest, fire suppression, and climate change. In the absence of reliable information about the potential consequence of postfire timber harvest, we conclude that providing postfire riparian zones with the same environmental protections they received before they burned is justified ecologically. Without a commitment to monitor management experiments, the effects of postfire riparian logging will remain unknown and highly contentious.


Reeves, Gordon H.; Bisson, Peter A.; Rieman, Bruce E.; Benda, Lee E. 2006. Postfire logging in riparian ecosystems. Conservation Biology. 20(4): 994-1004.

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