International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

A comparison of five sampling techniques to estimate surface fuel loading in montane forests*

Pamela G. Sikkink A C and Robert E. Keane B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Systems for Environmental Management, PO Box 8868, Missoula, MT 59807, USA.

B USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 W US Highway 10, Missoula, MT 59808, USA.

C Corrresponding author. Email: pgsikkink@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(3) 363-379 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF07003
Submitted: 5 January 2007  Accepted: 11 August 2007   Published: 23 June 2008

Abstract

Designing a fuel-sampling program that accurately and efficiently assesses fuel load at relevant spatial scales requires knowledge of each sample method’s strengths and weaknesses. We obtained loading values for six fuel components using five fuel load sampling techniques at five locations in western Montana, USA. The techniques included fixed-area plots, planar intersect, photoloads, a photoload macroplot, and a photo series. For each of the six fuels, we compared (1) the relative differences in load values among techniques and (2) the differences in load between each method and a reference sample. Totals from each method were rated for how much they deviated from totals for the reference in each fuel category. The planar-intersect method, which used 2.50 km of transects, was rated best overall for assessing the six fuels. Bootstrapping showed that at least 1.50 km of transect were needed to obtain estimates that approximate the reference sample. A newly developed photoload method, which compared fuel conditions on the forest floor with sets of pictures calibrated for load by fuel type, compared well with the reference and planar intersect. The commonly used photo series consistently produced higher mean load estimates than any other method for total fine woody debris (0.05–0.20 kg m–2) and logs (0.50–1.25 kg m–2).

Additional keywords: fuel inventory, fuel sampling, line intersect, photoload, photo series.




* The use of trade or firm names in the current paper is for reader information and does not imply endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture of any product or service. This paper was written and prepared by US Government employees on official time; therefore, it is in the public domain and not subject to copyright.

Acknowledgements

We thank Steve Slaughter and Laura Ward, Ninemile Ranger District, Lolo National Forest and Laurie Dickinson and Curtis Johnson from USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory for sampling support. We also thank our coworkers from the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and Systems for Environmental Management, who diligently sampled these sites as part of the field crews; Jim Kautz and Ian Grob from the Missoula Technology and Development Center, who granted use of the Center’s photo laboratory and technical and creative assistance to create the photo sequences; Kathleen Gray, who provided statistical support; and Duncan Lutes, Helen Smith, Rudy King, and two anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly improved the present manuscript.


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Accessory publication

Table A1. Comparing fuel load totals at five montane-forest sites using five fuel-sampling techniques

This table is available from the International Journal of Wildland Fire website.



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