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James D. McIver, Karen Erickson, Andrew P. Youngblood
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fuel Treatments & Effects
Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna

NRFSN number: 12600
FRAMES RCS number: 12111
Record updated:

Principal findings of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) study are presented in an annotated bibliography and summarized in tabular form by site, discipline (ecosystem component), treatment type, and major theme. Composed of 12 sites, the FFS is a comprehensive multidisciplinary experiment designed to evaluate the costs and ecological consequences of alternative fuel reduction treatments in seasonally dry forests of the United States. The FFS has a common experimental design across the 12-site network, with each site a fully replicated experiment that compares four treatments: prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, mechanical + prescribed fire, and an unmanipulated control. We measured treatment cost and variables within several components of the ecosystem, including vegetation, the fuel bed, soils, bark beetles, tree diseases, and wildlife in the same 10-ha experimental units. This design allowed us to assemble a fairly comprehensive picture of ecosystem response to treatment at the site scale, and to compare treatment response across a wide variety of conditions. Results of 206 technical articles on short-term findings are summarized here, with the following general conclusions: (1) For most sites, treatments modified stand structures and fuels to the point where post treatment stands would be expected to be much more resistant to moderate wildfire. (2) For the great majority of ecosystem components, including the vegetation, soils, and animal species, short-term responses to treatments were subtle and transient. (3) Comparison of fire risk reduction and ecological effects between 1-year and several years post treatment suggests that while effects tend to dampen with time, fire risk increases, owing to treatment-induced collapse of burned portions of stands. (4) Each multivariate analysis conducted has demonstrated that critical components of these ecosystems are strongly linked, suggesting that managers would be prudent to conduct fuel reduction work with the entire ecosystem in mind. (5) Multisite analyses generally show strong site-specific effects for many ecosystem components, which reduces the broad applicability of findings, and suggests that practitioners might do well to employ adaptive management at the local or regional scale. (6) Mechanical treatments do not serve as surrogates for fire for the great majority of ecosystem components, suggesting that fire could be introduced and maintained as a process in these systems whenever possible. (7) For research to best inform management on fuel reduction strategies through time, longer measurement times post treatment are needed, as well as repeated applications of treatments; short-term results of the FFS are insufficient to comment on long-term ecosystem trajectories.


McIver, James; Erickson, Karen; Youngblood, Andrew. 2012. Principal short-term findings of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate study. General Technical Report. PNW-GTR-860. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 210 p.