Event Title

Re-Examining Fire Severity Relations in Pre-Management Era Dry Mixed Conifer Forests

Event Website

http://www.nafew2009.org/

Start Date

24-6-2009 10:50 AM

End Date

24-6-2009 11:10 AM

Description

For some time, ecologists have known that spatial patterns of forest structure reflected disturbance and recovery history, disturbance severity and underlying influences of environmental gradients. In spite of this awareness, historical forest structure has been little used to expand knowledge of historical fire severity. Here, we used forest structure to predict pre-management era fire severity across three biogeoclimatic zones in eastern Washington State, USA, that contained extensive mixed conifer forests. We randomly selected 10% of the subwatersheds in each zone, delineated patch boundaries, and photo-interpreted the vegetation attributes of every patch in each subwatershed using the oldest available stereo-aerial photography. We statistically reconstructed the vegetation of any patch showing evidence of early selective harvesting, and then classified them as to their most recent fire severity. Classification used published percent canopy mortality definitions and a dichotomized procedure that considered the overstory and understory canopy cover and size class attributes of a patch, and the fire tolerance of its cover type. Mixed severity fires were most prevalent, regardless of forest type. The structure of mixed conifer patches, in particular, was formed by a mix of disturbance severities. In moist mixed conifer, stand replacement effects were more widespread in patches than surface fire effects, while in dry mixed conifer, surface fire effects were more widespread by nearly 2:1. However, evidence for low severity fires as the primary influence, or of abundant old park-like patches, was lacking in both the dry and moist mixed conifer forests. The relatively low abundance of old, parklike or similar forest patches, high abundance of young and intermediate-aged patches, and widespread evidence of partial stand and stand-replacing fire suggested that variable fire severity and nonequilibrium patch dynamics were primarily at work.

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Jun 24th, 10:50 AM Jun 24th, 11:10 AM

Re-Examining Fire Severity Relations in Pre-Management Era Dry Mixed Conifer Forests

For some time, ecologists have known that spatial patterns of forest structure reflected disturbance and recovery history, disturbance severity and underlying influences of environmental gradients. In spite of this awareness, historical forest structure has been little used to expand knowledge of historical fire severity. Here, we used forest structure to predict pre-management era fire severity across three biogeoclimatic zones in eastern Washington State, USA, that contained extensive mixed conifer forests. We randomly selected 10% of the subwatersheds in each zone, delineated patch boundaries, and photo-interpreted the vegetation attributes of every patch in each subwatershed using the oldest available stereo-aerial photography. We statistically reconstructed the vegetation of any patch showing evidence of early selective harvesting, and then classified them as to their most recent fire severity. Classification used published percent canopy mortality definitions and a dichotomized procedure that considered the overstory and understory canopy cover and size class attributes of a patch, and the fire tolerance of its cover type. Mixed severity fires were most prevalent, regardless of forest type. The structure of mixed conifer patches, in particular, was formed by a mix of disturbance severities. In moist mixed conifer, stand replacement effects were more widespread in patches than surface fire effects, while in dry mixed conifer, surface fire effects were more widespread by nearly 2:1. However, evidence for low severity fires as the primary influence, or of abundant old park-like patches, was lacking in both the dry and moist mixed conifer forests. The relatively low abundance of old, parklike or similar forest patches, high abundance of young and intermediate-aged patches, and widespread evidence of partial stand and stand-replacing fire suggested that variable fire severity and nonequilibrium patch dynamics were primarily at work.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nafecology/sessions/mixed_fire/4