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The 12-site National Fire and Fire Surrogate study (FFS) was a multivariate experiment that evaluated ecological consequences of alternative fuel-reduction treatments in seasonally dry forests of the US. Each site was a replicated experiment with a common design that compared an un-manipulated control, prescribed fire, mechanical and mechanical + fire treatments. Variables within the vegetation, fuelbed, forest floor and soil, bark beetles, tree diseases and wildlife were measured in 10-ha stands, and ecological response was compared among treatments at the site level, and across sites, to better understand the influence of differential site conditions. For most sites, treated stands were predicted to be more resilient to wildfire if it occurred shortly after treatment, but for most ecological variables, short-term response to treatments was subtle and transient. Strong site-specificity was observed in the response of most ecosystem variables, suggesting that practitioners employ adaptive management at the local scale. Because ecosystem components were tightly linked, adaptive management would need to include monitoring of a carefully chosen set of key variables. Mechanical treatments did not serve as surrogates for fire for most variables, suggesting that fire be maintained whenever possible. Restoration to pre-settlement conditions will require repeated treatments over time, with eastern forests requiring more frequent applications.
McIver JD, McIver JD. Ecological effects of alternative fuel-reduction treatments: highlights of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate study (FSS). International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2012 .