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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Silviculture can facilitate repeat prescribed burn programs with long-term strategies


A significant expansion of prescribed fire activity will be necessary to mitigate growing wildfire hazard in California forests. Forest managers can facilitate this expansion by promoting forest structures that allow for more effective implementation of prescribed fire, for both initial-entry and repeat burns. We analyzed changes in surface fuel during a series of three burns in replicated mixed-conifer stands following a period of over 100 years of fire suppression and exclusion. Total fuel load, proportion of pine present, canopy cover and basal area of live trees were relevant forest-structure components that influenced plot-scale fuel consumption. The study highlighted the importance of pre-fire fuel load and the relative proportion of pine in the overstory, which both led to greater amounts of fuel consumption. The initial-entry burn dramatically reduced all fuel categories (fine fuel, coarse wood and duff). Following each burn, fuel recovered until the next burn reduced loads enough to maintain low fuel levels. We apply the results to provide an example of how to determine the timing of prescribed fires.

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