Year Published: 2017
Description: Across the western United States, the three primary drivers of tree mortality and carbon balance are bark beetles, timber harvest, and wildfire. While these agents of forest change frequently overlap, uncertainty remains regarding their interactions and influence on specific subsequent fire effects such as change in canopy cover. Acquisition of pre- and post-fire Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data on the 2012 Pole Creek Fire in central Oregon provided an opportunity to isolate and quantify fire effects coincident with specific agents of change. This study characterizes the influence of pre-fire mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae) and timber harvest disturbances on LiDAR-estimated change in canopy cover. Observed canopy loss from fire was greater (higher severity) in areas experiencing pre-fire MPB (Δ 18.8%CC) than fire-only (Δ 11.1%CC). Additionally, increasing MPB intensity was directly related to greater canopy loss. Canopy loss was lower for all areas of pre-fire timber harvest (Δ 3.9%CC) than for fire-only, but among harvested areas, the greatest change was observed in the oldest treatments and the most intensive treatments [i.e., stand clearcut (Δ 5.0%CC) and combination of shelterwood establishment cuts and shelterwood removal cuts (Δ 7.7%CC)]. These results highlight the importance of accounting for and understanding the impact of pre-fire agents of change such as MPB and timber harvest on subsequent fire effects in land management planning. This work also demonstrates the utility of multi-temporal LiDAR as a tool for quantifying these landscape-scale interactions.