Forest Restoration and Fuels Reduction: Convergent or Divergent?

TitleForest Restoration and Fuels Reduction: Convergent or Divergent?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsL.Stephens, S, Battaglia, MA, Churchill, DJ, Collins, BM, Coppoletta, M, Hoffman, CM, Lydersen, JM, North, MP, Parsons, RA, Ritter, SM, Stevens, JT
Date Published01/2021
Keywordsadaptation, convergence, forest conservation, fuel reduction, resilience, restoration, wildfire

For over 20 years, forest fuel reduction has been the dominant management action in western US forests. These same actions have also been associated with the restoration of highly altered frequent-fire forests. Perhaps the vital element in the compatibility of these treatments is that both need to incorporate the salient characteristics that frequent fire produced—variability in vegetation structure and composition across landscapes and the inability to support large patches of high-severity fire. These characteristics can be achieved with both fire and mechanical treatments. The possible key to convergence of fuel reduction and forest restoration strategies is integrated planning that permits treatment design flexibility and a longer-term focus on fire reintroduction for maintenance. With changing climate conditions, long-term forest conservation will probably need to be focused on keeping tree density low enough (i.e., in the lower range of historic variation) for forest conditions to adapt to emerging disturbance patterns and novel ecological processes.