Date of Award:

8-2021

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Committee Chair(s)

James A. Lutz

Committee

James A. Lutz

Committee

Andrew J. Larson

Committee

Larissa L. Yocom

Committee

Mark W. Brunson

Committee

R. Douglas Ramsey

Abstract

Wildfire is an inexorable process in western landscapes, posing a major challenge to land managers: how can we use fire to restore healthy forests without jeopardizing human communities? The purpose of this dissertation is to produce research that will help guide management and support effective wildland fire use in fire-prone forests.

I utilized a longitudinal dataset from a single, large forest plot that burned under serendipitous circumstances during the 2013 Rim Fire. My research revealed that post-fire mortality models under-predict mortality of large trees, and may need to be re-calibrated to perform well under future climates. I used satellite-derived data to estimate fire severity, and found that while severity maps may be accurate at broad scales, they failed to capture fine-scale patterns in fire effects. I examined the spatial elements of fire-related mortality, and demonstrate that beetles, pathogens, and inter-tree competition mediated fire effects and provoked complex, spatially structured mortality for years following fire. Finally, I disentangled the interactive effects of fire, beetles, and drought to provide a more mechanistic understanding of compound disturbance dynamics.

This represents the first collection of fire ecology research to emerge from a single, exhaustively sampled, longitudinal monitoring plot. This dissertation not only enhances our ecological understanding of fire, it demonstrates the profound potential for large-scale observational research to contribute novel perspectives to the field of fire science.

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