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Fuel mass and forest structure following stand-replacement fire and post-fire logging in a mixed-evergreen forest

Donato, Daniel C., Fontaine, Joseph B., Kauffman, J. Boone, Robinson, W. Douglas, Law, Beverly E.
International journal of wildland fire 2013 v.22 no.5 pp. 652-666
felling, fuel loading, fire hazard, dead wood, aboveground biomass, fuels (fire ecology), wildfires, fuels, trees, stand basal area, forests, Oregon
Following severe wildfires, managing fire hazard by removing dead trees (post-fire logging) is an important issue globally. Data informing these management actions are relatively scarce, particularly how fuel loads differ by post-fire logging intensity within different environmental settings. In mixed-evergreen forests of Oregon, USA, we quantified fuel profiles 3–4 years after stand-replacement fire – assessing three post-fire logging intensities (0, 25–75, or >75% basal area cut) across two climatic settings (mesic coastal, drier interior). Stand-replacement fire consumed ~17% of aboveground biomass. Post-fire logging significantly reduced standing dead biomass, with high-intensity treatment leaving a greater proportion (28%) of felled biomass on site compared with moderate-intensity treatment (14%) because of less selective tree felling. A significant relationship between logging intensity and resulting surface fuels (per-hectare increase of 0.4–1.2Mg per square metre of basal area cut) indicated a broadly applicable predictive tool for management. Down wood cover increased by 3–5 times and became more spatially homogeneous after logging. Post-fire logging altered the fuel profile of early-seral stands (standing material removed or transferred, short-term increase in surface fuels, likely reduction in future large fuel accumulation), with moderate-intensity and unlogged treatments yielding surface fuel loads consistent with commonly prescribed levels, and high-intensity treatment resulting in greater potential need for follow-up fuel treatments.