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Ecological Effects of Severe Fire

With implications for forest restoration and fire management, many debate about the potential and need for severe fires into the future. Historically, some forests, and parts of all fires, burned with high severity and there are plants and animals dependent on fire and on severe fire. The degree of ecological change resulting from fire, referred to as burn severity, influences vegetation response, erosion potential, wildlife habitat, and other values. 

Burn severity can be inferred from satellite imagery, enabling analysis of trends for large areas. Data for large fires are available online from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity. The probability of high severity fires has been mapped for the conterminous US by the FIRESEV project. Soil burn severity is mapped on many large fires as part of the Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation. 

Wildfires may burn with lower severity when they burn where prior fires have burned recently. For more information, see our Effects of Repeated Fires hot topic.

Upcoming Events

None.

Syntheses

2016 Toward a more ecologically informed view of severe forest fires
Richard L. Hutto, Robert E. Keane, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Christopher T. Rota, Lisa A. Eby, Victoria A. Saab
2014 Challenges of assessing fire and burn severity using field measures, remote sensing and modeling
Penelope Morgan, Robert E. Keane, Gregory K. Dillon, Theresa B. Jain, Andrew T. Hudak, Eva C. Karau, Pamela G. Sikkink, Zachary A. Holden, Eva K. Strand
2011 Mapping the potential for high severity wildfire in the western United States
Gregory K. Dillon, Penelope Morgan, Zachary A. Holden
2007 Birds and burns of the Interior West: descriptions, habitats, and management in western forests
Victoria A. Saab, William M. Block, Robin E. Russell, John F. Lehmkuhl, Lisa Bate, Rachel White
2000 Chapter 2: Fire autecology
Melanie Miller

Publications/Reports

2017 Indicators of burn severity at extended temporal scales: A decade of ecosystem response in mixed conifer forests of western Montana
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Sarah A. Lewis, Andrew T. Hudak, Peter R. Robichaud, Penelope Morgan, K.L. Satterberg, Eva K. Strand, Alistair M. S. Smith, J Zamudio, Leigh B. Lentile
2016 Toward a more ecologically informed view of severe forest fires
Book or Chapter or Journal Article, Synthesis
Richard L. Hutto, Robert E. Keane, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Christopher T. Rota, Lisa A. Eby, Victoria A. Saab
2016 Avian relationships with wildfire at two dry forest locations with different historical fire regimes
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Quresh Latif, Jamie Sanderlin, Victoria A. Saab, William M. Block, Jonathan G. Dudley
2016 Repeated wildfires alter forest recovery of mixed-conifer ecosystems
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Camille Stevens-Rumann, Penelope Morgan
2016 Prior wildfires influence burn severity of subsequent fires
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Camille Stevens-Rumann, Susan J. Prichard, Eva K. Strand, Penelope Morgan
2015 Bark beetles and wildfires: how does forest recovery change with repeated disturbances in mixed-conifer forests?
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Camille Stevens-Rumann, Penelope Morgan, Chad M. Hoffman
2015 Vegetation response to burn severity, native grass seeding, and salvage logging
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Penelope Morgan, Marshell Moy, Christine A. Droske, Leigh B. Lentile, Sarah A. Lewis, Peter R. Robichaud, Andrew T. Hudak, Christopher Jason Williams
2015 Fire legacies impact conifer regeneration across environmental gradients in the U.S. northern Rockies
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Kerry Kemp, Philip E. Higuera, Penelope Morgan
2015 Daily weather and other factors influencing burn severity in central Idaho and western Montana
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Donovan Birch, Penelope Morgan, Crystal A. Kolden, John T. Abatzoglou, Gregory K. Dillon, Andrew T. Hudak, Alistair M. S. Smith
2014 Vegetation response after post-fire mulching and native grass seeding
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Penelope Morgan, Marshell Moy, Christine A. Droske, Leigh B. Lentile, Sarah A. Lewis, Peter R. Robichaud, Andrew T. Hudak
2014 Examining historical and current mixed-severity fire regimes in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western north America
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Dennis C. Odion, Chad T. Hanson, Andre Arsenault, William L. Baker, Dominick A. DellaSala, Richard L. Hutto, Walt Klenner, Max A. Moritz, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Thomas T. Veblen, Mark A. Williams
2014 Is proportion burned severely related to daily area burned?
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Donovan Birch, Penelope Morgan, Crystal A. Kolden, Andrew T. Hudak, Alistair M. S. Smith
2012 Wildfire severity mediates fluxes of plant material and terrestrial invertebrates to mountain streams
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Breeanne K. Jackson, S. Mazeika P. Sullivan, Rachel L. Malison
2012 A new forest fire paradigm: the need for high-severity fires
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Monica L. Bond, Rodney B. Siegel, Richard L. Hutto, Victoria A. Saab, Stephen A. Shunk
2011 Both topography and climate affected forest and woodland burn severity in two regions of the western US
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Gregory K. Dillon, Zachary A. Holden, Penelope Morgan, Michael A. Crimmins, Emily K. Heyerdahl, Charles H. Luce
2010 Field guide for mapping post-fire soil burn severity
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Annette Parson, Peter R. Robichaud, Sarah A. Lewis, Carolyn Napper, Jess T. Clark
2009 Influence of wildfire severity on riparian plant community heterogeneity in an Idaho, USA wilderness
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Breeanne K. Jackson, S. Mazeika P. Sullivan
2008 The ecological importance of severe wildfires: some like it hot
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Richard L. Hutto
2008 Spatial characteristics of fire severity in relation to fire growth in a Rocky Mountain subalpine forest
Conference Proceedings, Technical Report or White Paper
Calvin A. Farris, Ellis Q. Margolis, John A. Kupfer
2008 Spatial characteristics of fire severity in relation to fire growth in a Rocky Mountain subalpine forest
Conference Proceedings, Technical Report or White Paper
Calvin A. Farris, Ellis Q. Margolis, John A. Kupfer
2007 Post-fire burn severity and vegetation response following eight large wildfires across the western United States
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Leigh B. Lentile, Penelope Morgan, Andrew T. Hudak, Michael J. Bobbitt, Sarah A. Lewis, Alistair M. S. Smith, Peter R. Robichaud
2007 Birds and burns of the Interior West: descriptions, habitats, and management in western forests
Synthesis, Technical Report or White Paper
Victoria A. Saab, William M. Block, Robin E. Russell, John F. Lehmkuhl, Lisa Bate, Rachel White
2007 The relation between tree burn severity and forest structure in the Rocky Mountains
Conference Proceedings, Technical Report or White Paper
Theresa B. Jain, Russell T. Graham
2007 The relation between tree burn severity and forest structure in the Rocky Mountains
Conference Proceedings, Technical Report or White Paper
Theresa B. Jain, Russell T. Graham
2006 The relation between forest structure and soil burn severity
Conference Proceedings
Theresa B. Jain, Russell T. Graham, David S. Pilliod
2005 Changes in bird abundance after wildfire: importance of fire severity and time since fire
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Kristina M. Smucker, Richard L. Hutto, Brian M. Steele
2000 Chapter 2: Fire autecology
Synthesis, Technical Report or White Paper
Melanie Miller
1999 Prefire heterogeneity, fire severity, and early postfire plant reestablishment in subalpine forests of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Monica G. Turner, William H. Romme, Robert H. Gardner
1997 Effects of fire size and pattern on succession in Yellowstone National Park
Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Monica G. Turner, William H. Romme, Robert H. Gardner, William W. Hargrove
1986 First decade plant succession following the Sundance forest fire, northern Idaho
Technical Report or White Paper
Peter F. Stickney
1974 Smoke column height related to fire intensity
Technical Report or White Paper
Rodney A. Norum