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Long-term effects of fuel treatments on aboveground biomass accumulation in ponderosa pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains

Author(s): Kate A. Clyatt, Christopher R. Keyes, Sharon M. Hood
Year Published: 2017
Description:

Fuel treatments in ponderosa pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains are commonly used to modify fire behavior, but it is unclear how different fuel treatments impact the subsequent production and distribution of aboveground biomass, especially in the long term. This research evaluated aboveground biomass responses 23 years after treatment in two silvicultural installations with different cutting and underburning prescriptions in western Montana. The thinning installation included control (no treatment), thin/no burn, thin/spring burn, and thin/fall burn treatments. The shelterwood installation included control, cut/no burn, cut/wet burn, and cut/dry burn treatments. Across all fuel treatments in both the thinning and shelterwood installations, tree biomass had recovered to pre-harvest levels by 2015, or 23 years post-treatment. In the thinning, total aboveground and live-tree biomass were greatest in the control, but did not differ among the three thinned fuel treatments. Forest floor biomass was lower in the two burned treatments relative to the two unburned treatments. Seedling, vegetation, stump, and snag biomass did not differ among the four treatments. In the shelterwood, total aboveground and livetree biomass were both greater in the unburned treatments relative to the burned treatments. Forest floor and snag biomass also tended to be lower in the burned treatments. Seedling, vegetation, and stump biomass were similar across all treatments. This research shows that tree biomass in ponderosa pine stands subjected to common fuels treatments can recover to pre-harvest levels in less than 23 years, while still exhibiting reduced stand densities that promote forest restoration objectives. Burgeoning biomass at the seedling layer suggests that additional understory treatments are necessary in order to abate ladder fuel development and sustain resistance to high-severity wildfire.

Citation: Clyatt, Kate A.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Hood, Sharon M. 2017. Long-term effects of fuel treatments on aboveground biomass accumulation in ponderosa pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. Forest Ecology and Management. 400: 587-599.
Topic(s): Fuel Treatments & Prescriptions
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 15543
Record updated: Oct 9, 2017