Year of Publication
Reducing stand density is often used as a tool for mitigating the risk of high-intensity crown fires. However, concern has been expressed that opening stands might lead to greater drying of surface fuels, contributing to increased fire risk. The objective of this study was to determine whether woody fuel moisture differed between unthinned and thinned mixed-conifer stands. Sections of logs representing the 1000- and 10 000-h fuel sizes were placed at 72 stations within treatment units in the fall (autumn) of 2007. Following snow-melt in 2008, 10-h fuel sticks were added and all fuels were weighed every 1–2 weeks from May until October. Moisture of the 1000- and 10 000-h fuels peaked at the end of May, and then decreased steadily through the season. Moisture of the 10- and 1000-h fuels did not differ between unthinned and thinned stands at any measurement time. The 10 000-h fuel moisture was significantly less in thinned than unthinned stands only in early to mid-May. Overall, even when fuel moisture varied between treatments, differences were small. The long nearly precipitation-free summers in northern California appear to have a much larger effect on fuel moisture than the amount of canopy cover. Fuel moisture differences resulting from stand thinning would therefore not be expected to substantially influence fire behaviour and effects during times of highest fire danger in this environment.
Estes BL, Knapp EE, Skinner CN, Uzoh FCC. Seasonal variation in surface fuel moisture between unthinned and thinned mixed conifer forest, northern California, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire [Internet]. 2012 ;21(4):8. Available from: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/estes/psw_2012_estes001.pdf