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Robert E. Keane, Andrew Bower, Sharon M. Hood
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Ecology
Fire Effects
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Prescribed Fire-use treatments

NRFSN number: 22112
Record updated:

Many research studies and syntheses have suggested that prescribed fire (Rx fire) and wildland fire use fires (WFU) are perhaps the most effective tool for restoring whitebark pine ecosystems (Murray et al. 1995, Keane et al. 2012, Perkins 2015, Keane 2018). Rx and WFU fires can kill competing conifers; reduce surface and canopy fuels; and create attractive sites for nutcracker caching. They best mimic historical fire regimes, much better than mechanical thinnings and cuttings (Keane and Parsons 2010). However, the primary assumption of their application as a restoration tool is that the Rx and WFU fires are not so hot that they kill mature, cone-bearing whitebark pine. A little mortality is acceptable (>10%) due to the uncertainty with applying fire, especially in the understory where some whitebark pine saplings may be the same age as the overstory (Keane and Parsons 2010). But Rx and WFU fires that kill over 20-30% of healthy, mature whitebark pine in the overstory are undesirable or ineffective at successful restoration. This is especially true in areas with heavy blister rust mortality and there are limited seed sources for nutcracker dispersal.


Keane, Bob; Bower, Andrew; Hood, Sharon. 2020. A burning paradox: Whitebark is easy to kill but also dependent on fire. Nutcracker Notes. 38: 7-8, 34.