Chapter 14: Impact of Bark Beetle Infestation on Fuel Loads and Fire Behavior in “Old-Stage” Southwestern Ponderosa Pine

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Forest health monitoring

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Bark beetle (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, sf. Scolytinae) infestations modify fuels and, consequently, modeled fire behavior in conifer ecosystems of the Western United States (Hicke and others 2012, Jenkins and others 2014). Changes in fuels will vary with space and time since infestation, and impacts on fire behavior will be correspondingly complex (Simard and others 2011). Multiple studies have focused on quantifying fuels and modeled or observed fire behavior in currently infested (known as “red-stage” because killed trees still retain fading yellow-red needles) and recently infested (known as “gray-stage” because all needles have fallen, revealing the tree boles and branches) pine stands, particularly in lodgepole pine type (Pinus contorta). Less research has been conducted in “old-stage” stands (wherein beetle-killed trees have mostly fallen, the fallen needles have mostly decomposed, and advance regeneration forms ladder fuels), especially for relatively arid types such as ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) (Hicke and others 2012).