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Surface fuel changes after severe disturbance in Rocky Mountain ecosystems

Date: March 16, 2017
Presenter(s): Christine Stalling, Robert E. Keane, Molly L. Retzlaff
Description: It is generally assumed that severe disturbances predispose damaged forests to high fire hazard by creating heavy fuel loading conditions. Of special concern is the perception that surface fuel loadings become high as killed trees deposit foliage and woody material on the ground. These high fuel loadings may result in abnormally severe fires. In this seminar, Chris Stalling discussed a study that evaluated the effects of severe, exogenous disturbance events, namely fire and beetles, on future fuel conditions through biannual field collections. Researchers measured surface fuel deposition and accumulation rates for a number of forest types after severe wildfires, Douglas-fir beetle outbreaks, and mountain pine beetle events to quantitatively describe fuel dynamics for up to 10 years after the disturbance. Fuel deposition was measured from semi-annual collections of fallen biomass sorted into six fuel components (fallen foliage, twigs, branches, large branches, logs, and all other material) from a network of seven, one meter square litter traps established on fifteen sites across the northern Rocky Mountains USA.  Fuel loadings of the same six fuel components were measured on each plot every year until the end of the study. Results show that most foliage material fell within the first one to two years after disturbance and surface fuel loadings did not appear to increase substantially at any point in this study. Snags and woody debris larger than 75 mm diameter were found infrequently in the litter traps. There was no increase in fire hazard on the study sites sampled in this study.
Topic(s): Fuels Assessment & Monitoring
Ecosystem(s): None
Type: Webinar
NRFSN number: 15243
Record updated: May 22, 2017