Reburn in the Rain Shadow

TitleReburn in the Rain Shadow
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsVizcarra, N
Series TitleScience Findings
Document Number211
Date Published11/2018
InstitutionUS Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Keywordsdry forest, fuels, jfsp fire science briefs and digests, Postfire logging, salvage, understory

Wildfires consume existing forest fuels but also leave behind dead shrubs and trees that become fuel to future wildfires. Harvesting firekilled trees is sometimes proposed as an economical approach for reducing future fuels and wildfire severity. Postfire logging, however, is controversial. Some question its fuel reduction benefits and its ecological impacts.

David W. Peterson, a research forester with the USDA Forest Service, and his colleagues investigated the long-term effects of postfire logging on woody fuels in 255 coniferous forest stands that burned with high fire severity in 68 wildfires between 1970 and 2007 in eastern Washington and Oregon. They found that postfire logging significantly reduced future surface woody fuel levels in forests regenerating following wildfires.

The researchers also investigated the long-term response of understory vegetation to two postfire logging treatments—commercial salvage logging with and without additional fuel reduction logging—on a long-term postfire logging experiment in northeastern Oregon.

They found that postfire logging produced minimal persistent impacts on understory vegetation, suggesting that understory vegetation can be resilient to postfire logging, particularly when best management practices, like logging over snow, are used to limit damage to soils and understory vegetation.