Postfire Mortality of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir: a Review of Methods to Predict Tree Death

Document Type


Publication Date



Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-132


USDA Forest Service

First Page


Last Page



This review focused on the primary literature that described, modeled, or predicted the probability of postfire mortality in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The methods and measurements that were used to predict postfire tree death tended to fall into two general categories: those focusing on measuring important aspects of fire behavior, the indirect but ultimate cause of mortality; and those focusing on tissue damage due to fire, the direct effect of fire on plant organs. Of the methods reviewed in this paper, crown scorch volume was the most effective, easiest to use, and most popular measurement in predicting postfire mortality in both conifer species. In addition to this direct measure of foliage damage, several studies showed the importance and utility of adding a measurement of stem (bole) damage. There is no clear method of choice for this, but direct assessment of cambium condition near the tree base is widely used in Douglas-fir. Only two ponderosa pine studies directly measured fine root biomass changes due to fire, but they did not use these measurements to predict postfire mortality. Indirect measures of fire behavior such as ground char classes may be the most practical choice for measuring root damage. This review did not find clear postfire survivability differences between the two species. The literature also does not show a consistent use of terminology; we propose a standard set of terms and their definitions.