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Kimberly T. Davis, Jamie L. Peeler, Joseph E Fargione, Ryan D. Haugo, Kerry L. Metlen, Marcos D. Robles, Travis J. Woolley
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Cataloging Information

Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Prescribed Fire-use treatments

NRFSN number: 26475
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Increased understanding of how mechanical thinning, prescribed burning, and wildfire affect subsequent wildfire severity is urgently needed as people and forests face a growing wildfire crisis. In response, we reviewed scientific literature for the US West and completed a meta-analysis that answered three questions: (1) How much do treatments reduce wildfire severity within treated areas? (2) How do the effects vary with treatment type, treatment age, and forest type? (3) How does fire weather moderate the effects of treatments? We found overwhelming evidence that mechanical thinning with prescribed burning, mechanical thinning with pile burning, and prescribed burning only are effective at reducing subsequent wildfire severity, resulting in reductions in severity between 62% and 72% relative to untreated areas. In comparison, thinning only was less effective - underscoring the importance of treating surface fuels when mitigating wildfire severity is the management goal. The efficacy of these treatments did not vary among forest types assessed in this study and was high across a range of fire weather conditions. Prior wildfire had more complex impacts on subsequent wildfire severity, which varied with forest type and initial wildfire severity. Across treatment types, we found that effectiveness of treatments declined over time, with the mean reduction in wildfire severity decreasing more than twofold when wildfire occurred greater than 10 years after initial treatment. Our meta-analysis provides up-to-date information on the extent to which active forest management reduces wildfire severity and facilitates better outcomes for people and forests during future wildfire events.


Davis KT, Peeler J, Fargione J, Haugo RD, Metlen KL, Robles MD, and Woolley T. 2024. Tamm review: A meta-analysis of thinning, prescribed fire, and wildfire effects on subsequent wildfire severity in conifer dominated forests of the Western US. Forest Ecology and Management. 561: 121885.

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