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Metrics and Considerations for Evaluating How Forest Treatments Alter Wildfire Behavior and Effects

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The influence of forest treatments on wildfire effects is challenging to interpret. This is, in part, because the impact forest treatments have on wildfire can be slight and variable across many factors. Effectiveness of a treatment also depends on the metric considered. We present and define human–fire interaction, fire behavior, and ecological metrics of forest treatment effects on wildfire and discuss important considerations and recommendations for evaluating treatments. We demonstrate these concepts using a case study from the Cameron Peak Fire in Colorado, USA. Pre-fire forest treatments generally, but not always, experienced reduced burn severity, particularly when surface fuels were reduced. Treatments in the Cameron Peak Fire have also been documented as increasing tree survivorship, aiding suppression efforts, promoting firefighter safety, and influencing fire spread. However, the impacts of pre-fire management on primary landscape-scale objectives, like watershed protection, are unknown. Discussions about the influence of pre-fire treatments on fire effects must define the indicator(s) being assessed, as the same treatment may be considered successful under one measure but not others. Thus, it is critical to bring a common language and understanding to conversations about treatment effects and advance efforts to evaluate the range of treatment effects, thus supporting treatment planning.
A.G. Vorster; C. Stevens-Rumann; N. Young; B. Woodward; C.Tsz Hin Choi; M.E. Chambers; A.S. Cheng; M. Caggiano; C. Schultz; M. Thompson; M. Greiner; G. Aplet; R.N. Addington; M.A. Battaglia
Vorster AG, Stevens-Rumann C, Young N, Woodward B, Choi CTsz Hin, Chambers ME, Cheng AS, Caggiano M, Schultz C, Thompson M, et al. Metrics and Considerations for Evaluating How Forest Treatments Alter Wildfire Behavior and Effects. Journal of Forestry. 2023 :1-18.