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

Simulating landscape-scale effects of fuels treatments in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA

Alexandra D. Syphard A E , Robert M. Scheller B C , Brendan C. Ward B , Wayne D. Spencer D and James R. Strittholt B

A Conservation Biology Institute, 10423 Sierra Vista Avenue, La Mesa, CA 91941, USA.

B Conservation Biology Institute, 136 SW Washington Avenue, Suite 202, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA.

C Present address: Department of Environmental Sciences and Management, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, USA.

D Conservation Biology Institute, 815 Madison Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: asyphard@consbio.org

International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(3) 364-383 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF09125
Submitted: 2 November 2009  Accepted: 3 August 2010   Published: 5 May 2011

Abstract

In many coniferous forests of the western United States, wildland fuel accumulation and projected climate conditions increase the likelihood that fires will become larger and more intense. Fuels treatments and prescribed fire are widely recommended, but there is uncertainty regarding their ability to reduce the severity of subsequent fires at a landscape scale. Our objective was to investigate the interactions among landscape-scale fire regimes, fuels treatments and fire weather in the southern Sierra Nevada, California. We used a spatially dynamic model of wildfire, succession and fuels management to simulate long-term (50 years), broad-scale (across 2.2 × 106 ha) effects of fuels treatments. We simulated thin-from-below treatments followed by prescribed fire under current weather conditions and under more severe weather. Simulated fuels management minimised the mortality of large, old trees, maintained total landscape plant biomass and extended fire rotation, but effects varied based on elevation, type of treatment and fire regime. The simulated area treated had a greater effect than treatment intensity, and effects were strongest where more fires intersected treatments and when simulated weather conditions were more severe. In conclusion, fuels treatments in conifer forests potentially minimise the ecological effects of high-severity fire at a landscape scale provided that 8% of the landscape is treated every 5 years, especially if future fire weather conditions are more severe than those in recent years.

Additional keywords: climate change, LANDIS-II, prescribed fire, wildfire.


References

Agee JK (1993) ‘Fire Ecology of Pacific Northwest Forests.’ (Island Press: Washington, DC)

Agee JK, Skinner CN (2005) Basic principles of forest fuel reduction treatments. Forest Ecology and Management 211, 83–96.
Basic principles of forest fuel reduction treatments.CrossRef | open url image1

Agee JK, Bahro B, Finney MA, Om PN, Sapsis DB, Skinner CN, van Wagtendonk JW, Weatherspoon CP (2000) The use of shaded fuelbreaks in landscape fire management. Forest Ecology and Management 127, 55–66.
The use of shaded fuelbreaks in landscape fire management.CrossRef | open url image1

Amiro BD, Logan KA, Wotton BM, Flannigan MD, Todd JB, Stocks BJ, Martell DL (2004) Fire Weather Index System components for large fires in the Canadian boreal forest. International Journal of Wildland Fire 13, 391–400.
Fire Weather Index System components for large fires in the Canadian boreal forest.CrossRef | open url image1

Backer DM, Jensen SE, McPherson GR (2004) Impacts of fire suppression activities on natural communities. Conservation Biology 18, 937–946.
Impacts of fire suppression activities on natural communities.CrossRef | open url image1

Beaty RM, Taylor AH (2008) Fire history and the structure and dynamics of a mixed conifer forest landscape in the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe Basin, California, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 255, 707–719.
Fire history and the structure and dynamics of a mixed conifer forest landscape in the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe Basin, California, USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Bond WJ, van Wilgen BW (1996) ‘Fire and Plants.’ (Chapman and Hall: London)

Burns RM, Honkala BH (1990) Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods. USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 654. (Washington, DC)

Calkin DE, Gebert KM, Jones JG, Neilson RP (2005) Forest Service large fire area burned and suppression expenditure trends, 1970–2002. Journal of Forestry 103, 179–183.

Cardille JA, Ventura SJ, Turner MG (2001) Environmental and social factors influencing wildfires in the Upper Midwest, United States. Ecological Applications 11, 111–127.
Environmental and social factors influencing wildfires in the Upper Midwest, United States.CrossRef | open url image1

Clark JS, Carpenter SR, Barber M, Collins S, Dobson A, Foley JA, Lodge DM, Pascual M, Pielke R, Pizer W, Pringle C, Reid WV, Rose KA, Sala O, Schlesinger WH, Wall DH, Wear D (2001) Ecological forecasts: an emerging imperative. Science 293, 657–660.
Ecological forecasts: an emerging imperative.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3MXls1Kgsb8%3D&md5=5e514420f64a409df6b242c0bbfa9136CAS | 11474103PubMed | open url image1

Collins BM, Stephens SL (2007) Managing natural wildfires in Sierra Nevada wilderness areas. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5, 523–527.
Managing natural wildfires in Sierra Nevada wilderness areas.CrossRef | open url image1

Collins BM, Miller JD, Thode AE, Kelly M, van Wagtendonk JW, Stephens SL (2009) Interactions among wildland fires in a long-established Sierra Nevada natural fire area. Ecosystems 12, 114–128.
Interactions among wildland fires in a long-established Sierra Nevada natural fire area.CrossRef | open url image1

Covington WW, Moore MM (1994) South-western ponderosa forest structure: changes since Euro-American settlement. Journal of Forestry 95, 39–47.

DellaSala DA, Williams JE, Williams CD, Franklin JF (2004) Beyond smoke and mirrors: a synthesis of fire policy and science. Conservation Biology 18, 976–986.
Beyond smoke and mirrors: a synthesis of fire policy and science.CrossRef | open url image1

Dixon GE (2002) Essential FVS: a user’s guide to the Forest Vegetation Simulator. USDA Forest Service, Forest Management Service Center, Internal Report. (Fort Collins, CO)

Finney MA, McHugh CW, Grenfell IC (2005) Stand and landscape effects of prescribed burning on two Arizona wildfires. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 35, 1714–1722.
Stand and landscape effects of prescribed burning on two Arizona wildfires.CrossRef | open url image1

Finney MA, Seli RC, McHugh CW, Ager AA, Bahro B, Agee JK (2006) Simulation of long-term landscape-level fuel treatment effects on large wildfires. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Proceedings RMRS-P-41. (Fort Collins, CO)

Flannigan MD, Logan KA, Amiro BD, Skinner WR, Stocks BJ (2005) Future area burned in Canada. Climatic Change 72, 1–16.
Future area burned in Canada.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD2MXhtVyisrzM&md5=9036cc153cf5fd1c42da5d3a5ad13ff1CAS | open url image1

Forestry Canada Fire Danger Group (1992) Development and structure of the Canadian Forest Fire Behavior Prediction System. Forestry Canada, Science and Sustainable Development Directorate, Information Report ST-X-3. (Ottawa, ON)

Franklin J (2003) Clustering versus regression trees for determining ecological land units in the southern California mountains and foothills. Forest Science 49, 354–368.

Gavin DG, Hallett DJ, Hu FS, Lertzman KP, Prichard SJ, Brown KJ, Lynch JA, Bartlein P, Peterson DL (2007) Forest fire and climate change in western North America: insights from sediment charcoal records. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5, 499–506.
Forest fire and climate change in western North America: insights from sediment charcoal records.CrossRef | open url image1

Gustafson EJ, Shvidenko AZ, Sturtevant BR, Scheller RM (2010) Predicting global change effects on forest biomass and composition in south-central Siberia. Ecological Applications 20, 700–715.
Predicting global change effects on forest biomass and composition in south-central Siberia.CrossRef | 20437957PubMed | open url image1

Hansen MH, Frieswyk T, Glover JF, Kelly JF (1992) The Eastwide forest inventory data base: users’ manual. USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, General Technical Report GTR NC-151. (St Paul, MN)

Hurteau M, North M (2009) Fuel treatment effects on tree-based carbon storage and emissions under modeled wildfire scenarios. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, 409–414.
Fuel treatment effects on tree-based carbon storage and emissions under modeled wildfire scenarios.CrossRef | open url image1

Hurteau MD, Koch GW, Hugate BA (2008) Carbon protection and fire risk reduction: toward a full accounting of forest carbon offsets. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6, 493–498.
Carbon protection and fire risk reduction: toward a full accounting of forest carbon offsets.CrossRef | open url image1

Keane RE, Veblen T, Ryan KC, Logan J, Allen C, Hawkes B (2002). The cascading effects of fire exclusion in the Rocky Mountains. In ‘Rocky Mountain Futures: an Ecological Perspective’. (Ed. J Baron) pp. 133–153. (Island Press: Washington, DC)

Keeley JE, Davis FW (2007) Chaparral. In ‘Terrestrial Vegetation of California, 3rd Edn’. (Eds MG Barbour, T Keeler-Wolf, AA Schoenherr) pp. 339–366. (University of California Press: Los Angeles, CA)

Keeley JE, Stephenson NL (2000) Restoring natural fire regimes to the Sierra Nevada in an era of global change In ‘Wilderness Ecosystems, Threats, and Management’. (Eds DN Cole, SF McCool, WT Borrie, J O’Laughlin) USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-5. (Ogden, UT)

Kilgore BM, Taylor D (1979) Fire history of a sequoia mixed conifer forest. Ecology 60, 129–142.
Fire history of a sequoia mixed conifer forest.CrossRef | open url image1

Laudenslayer WF, Darr HH (1990) Historical effects of logging on the forests of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges of California. Transactions of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society 26, 12–23.

Lehmkuhl JF, Kennedy M, Ford ED, Singleton PH, Gaines WL, Lind RL (2007) Seeing the forest for the fuel: integrating ecological values and fuels management. Forest Ecology and Management 246, 73–80.
Seeing the forest for the fuel: integrating ecological values and fuels management.CrossRef | open url image1

Lenihan JM, Drapek RJ, Bachelet D, Neilson RP (2003) Climate change effects on vegetation distribution, carbon, and fire in California. Ecological Applications 13, 1667–1681.
Climate change effects on vegetation distribution, carbon, and fire in California.CrossRef | open url image1

Lutz JA, van Wagtendonk JW, Thode AE, Miller JD, Franklin JF (2009) Climate, lightning ignitions, and fire severity in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 765–774.
Climate, lightning ignitions, and fire severity in Yosemite National Park, California, USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Mayer KE, Laudenslayer WF, Jr (1988) ‘A Guide to Wildlife Habitats of California.’ (State of California, Resources Agency: Sacramento, CA)

McKenzie D, Gedalof Z, Peterson DL, Mote P (2004) Climatic change, wildfire, and conservation. Conservation Biology 18, 890–902.
Climatic change, wildfire, and conservation.CrossRef | open url image1

Merriam KE, Keeley JE, Beyers JL (2006) Fuel breaks affect non-native species abundance in California plant communities. Ecological Applications 16, 515–527.
Fuel breaks affect non-native species abundance in California plant communities.CrossRef | 16711041PubMed | open url image1

Miller C, Landres PB (2004) Exploring information needs for wildland fire and fuels management. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-127. (Fort Collins, CO)

Miller C, Urban DL (2000) Modeling the effects of fire management alternatives on mixed-conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada. Ecological Applications 10, 85–94.
Modeling the effects of fire management alternatives on mixed-conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada.CrossRef | open url image1

Miller JD, Safford HD, Crimmins M, Thode AE (2009) Quantitative evidence for increasing forest fire severity in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Mountains, California and Nevada, USA. Ecosystems 12, 16–32.
Quantitative evidence for increasing forest fire severity in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Mountains, California and Nevada, USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Milne E, Aspinall RJ, Veldkamp TA (2009) Integrated modelling of natural and social systems in land change science. Landscape Ecology 24, 1145–1147.
Integrated modelling of natural and social systems in land change science.CrossRef | open url image1

Mladenoff DJ (2004) LANDIS and forest landscape models. Ecological Modelling 180, 7–19.
LANDIS and forest landscape models.CrossRef | open url image1

Noss RF, Franklin JF, Baker WL, Schoennagel T, Moyle PB (2006) Managing fire-prone forests in the western United States. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4, 481–487.
Managing fire-prone forests in the western United States.CrossRef | open url image1

Parsons DJ, Graber DM, Agee JK, van Wagtendonk JW (1986) Natural fire management in National Parks. Environmental Management 10, 21–24.
Natural fire management in National Parks.CrossRef | open url image1

Peterson DL, Johnson MC, Agee JK, Jain TB, McKenzie DM, Reinhardt ER (2005) Forest structure and fire hazard in dry forests of the Western United States. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-628. (Portland, OR)

Preisler HK, Brillinger DR, Burgan RE, Benoit JW (2004) Probability based models for estimation of wildfire risk. International Journal of Wildland Fire 13, 133–142.
Probability based models for estimation of wildfire risk.CrossRef | open url image1

R Development Core Team (2004) ‘R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing.’ (R Foundation for Statistical Computing) Available at http://www.r-project.org/ [Verified 7 April 2011]

Radeloff VC, Hammer RB, Stewart SI, Fried JS, Holcomb SS, McKeefry JF (2005) The wildland–urban interface in the United States. Ecological Applications 15, 799–805.
The wildland–urban interface in the United States.CrossRef | open url image1

Raymond CL, Peterson DL (2005) Fuel treatments alter the effects of wildfire in a mixed-evergreen forest, Oregon, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 35, 2981–2995.
Fuel treatments alter the effects of wildfire in a mixed-evergreen forest, Oregon, USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Reinhardt ED, Keane RE, Calkin DE, Cohen JD (2008) Objectives and considerations for wildland fuel treatment in forested ecosystems of the interior western United States. Forest Ecology and Management 256, 1997–2006.
Objectives and considerations for wildland fuel treatment in forested ecosystems of the interior western United States.CrossRef | open url image1

Rhodes JJ, Baker WL (2008) Fire probability, fuel treatment effectiveness and ecological tradeoffs in western US forest. The Open Forest Science Journal 1, 1–7.
Fire probability, fuel treatment effectiveness and ecological tradeoffs in western US forest.CrossRef | open url image1

Rieman BE, Luce CH, Gresswell RE, Young MK (2003) Introduction to the effects of wildland fire on aquatic ecosystems in the western USA. Forest Ecology and Management 178, 197–211.
Introduction to the effects of wildland fire on aquatic ecosystems in the western USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Roberts DW (1996) Landscape vegetation modelling with vital attributes and fuzzy systems theory. Ecological Modelling 90, 175–184.
Landscape vegetation modelling with vital attributes and fuzzy systems theory.CrossRef | open url image1

Scheller RM, Mladenoff DJ (2004) A forest growth and biomass module for a landscape simulation model, LANDIS: design, validation, and application Ecological Modelling 180, 211–229.
A forest growth and biomass module for a landscape simulation model, LANDIS: design, validation, and applicationCrossRef | open url image1

Scheller RM, Mladenoff DJ, Crow TR, Sickley TS (2005) Simulating the effects of fire reintroduction versus continued suppression on forest composition and landscape structure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, northern Minnesota (USA). Ecosystems 8, 396–411.
Simulating the effects of fire reintroduction versus continued suppression on forest composition and landscape structure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, northern Minnesota (USA).CrossRef | open url image1

Scheller RM, Domingo JB, Sturtevant BR, Williams JS, Rudy A, Gustafson EJ, Mladenoff DJ (2007) Design, development, and application of LANDIS-II, a spatial landscape simulation model with flexible spatial and temporal resolution. Ecological Modelling 201, 409–419.
Design, development, and application of LANDIS-II, a spatial landscape simulation model with flexible spatial and temporal resolution.CrossRef | open url image1

Scheller RM, Van Tuyl S, Clark K, Hayden NG, Hom J, Mladenoff DJ (2008) Simulation of forest change in the New Jersey Pine Barrens under current and pre-colonial conditions. Forest Ecology and Management 255, 1489–1500.
Simulation of forest change in the New Jersey Pine Barrens under current and pre-colonial conditions.CrossRef | open url image1

Scheller RM, Gustafson EJ, Sturtevant BR, Ward BC, Mladenoff DJ (2010) Increasing the reliability of ecological models using modern software engineering techniques. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8, 253–260.
Increasing the reliability of ecological models using modern software engineering techniques.CrossRef | open url image1

Schmidt DA, Taylor AH, Skinner CN (2008) The influence of fuels treatment and landscape arrangement on simulated fire behavior, Southern Cascade Range, California. Forest Ecology and Management 255, 3170–3184.
The influence of fuels treatment and landscape arrangement on simulated fire behavior, Southern Cascade Range, California.CrossRef | open url image1

Schoennagel T, Veblen TT, Romme WH (2004) The interaction of fire, fuels, and climate across Rocky Mountain forests. Bioscience 54, 661–676.
The interaction of fire, fuels, and climate across Rocky Mountain forests.CrossRef | open url image1

Scott JH, Burgan RE (2005) Standard fire behavior fuel models: a comprehensive set for use with Rothermel’s Surface Fire Spread Model. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-153. (Fort Collins, CO)

Spencer W, Rustigian-Romsos H, Strittholt J, Scheller R, Zielinski W, Truex R (2011) Using occupancy and population models to assess habitat conservation opportunities for an isolated carnivore population. Biological Conservation 144, 788–803.
Using occupancy and population models to assess habitat conservation opportunities for an isolated carnivore population.CrossRef | open url image1

Stephens SL (1998) Effects of fuels and silvicultural treatments on potential fire behavior in mixed conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, CA. Forest Ecology and Management 105, 21–35.
Effects of fuels and silvicultural treatments on potential fire behavior in mixed conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, CA.CrossRef | open url image1

Stephens SL, Moghaddas JJ (2005) Experiemental fuel treatment impacts on forest structure, potential fire behavior, and predicted tree mortality in a California mixed conifer forest. Forest Ecology and Management 215, 21–36.
Experiemental fuel treatment impacts on forest structure, potential fire behavior, and predicted tree mortality in a California mixed conifer forest.CrossRef | open url image1

Stephens SL, Moghaddas JJ, Ediminster C, Fiedler CE, Hasse S, Harrington M, Keeley JE, McIver JD, Metlen K, Skinner CN, Youngblood A (2009) Fire treatment effects on vegetation structure, fuels, and potential fire severity in western US forests. Ecological Applications 19, 305–320.
Fire treatment effects on vegetation structure, fuels, and potential fire severity in western US forests.CrossRef | 19323192PubMed | open url image1

Stratton RL (2004) Assessing the effectiveness of landscape fuel treatments on fire growth and behavior. Journal of Forestry 102, 32–40.

Sturtevant BR, Gustafson EJ, Li W, He HS (2004) Modeling biological disturbances in LANDIS: a module description and demonstration using spruce budworm. Ecological Modelling 180, 153–174.
Modeling biological disturbances in LANDIS: a module description and demonstration using spruce budworm.CrossRef | open url image1

Sturtevant BR, Scheller RM, Miranda BR, Shinneman D, Syphard AD (2009) Simulating dynamic and mixed-severity fire regimes: A process-based fire extension for LANDIS-II. Ecological Modelling 220, 3380–3393.
Simulating dynamic and mixed-severity fire regimes: A process-based fire extension for LANDIS-II.CrossRef | open url image1

Sugihara NG, Van Wagtendonk JW, Fites-Kaufman J, Shaffer KE, Thode AE (2006) The future of fire in California’s ecosystems. In ‘Fire in California’s Ecosystems’. (Eds NG Sugihara, JW van Wagtendonk, KE Shaffer, J Fites-Kaufman, AE Thode) pp. 538–543. (The University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

Syphard AD, Franklin J, Keeley JE (2006) Simulating the effects of frequent fire on southern California coastal shrublands. Ecological Applications 16, 1744–1756.
Simulating the effects of frequent fire on southern California coastal shrublands.CrossRef | 17069368PubMed | open url image1

Syphard AD, Yang J, Franklin J, He HS, Keeley JE (2007) Calibrating a forest landscape model to simulate high fire frequency in Mediterranean-type shrublands. Environmental Modelling & Software 22, 1641–1653.
Calibrating a forest landscape model to simulate high fire frequency in Mediterranean-type shrublands.CrossRef | open url image1

Syphard AD, Radeloff VC, Keuler NS, Taylor RS, Hawbaker TJ, Stewart SI, Clayton MK (2008) Predicting spatial patterns of fire in a southern California landscape. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 602–613.
Predicting spatial patterns of fire in a southern California landscape.CrossRef | open url image1

US Census (2000) Census 2000 TIGER/Line Files. US Census Bureau, machine-readable data files. (Washington, DC) Available at http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/ [Verified 19 April 2011]

Van Wagner CE (1987) Development and structure of the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index System. Agriculture Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Forestry Technical Report 35. (Ottawa, ON)

van Wagtendonk JW, Fites-Kaufman J (2006) Sierra Nevada Bioregion. In ‘Fire in California’s Ecosystems’. (Eds NG Sugihara, JW van Wagtendonk, KE Shaffer, J Fites-Kaufman, AE Thode) pp. 264–294. (The University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

Varner JM, Gordon DR, Putz FE, Hiers JK (2005) Restoring fire to long-unburned Pinus palustris ecosystems: novel fire effects and consequences for long-unburned ecosystems. Restoration Ecology 13, 536–544.
Restoring fire to long-unburned Pinus palustris ecosystems: novel fire effects and consequences for long-unburned ecosystems.CrossRef | open url image1

Ward BC, Mladenoff DJ, Scheller RM (2005) Landscape-level effects of the interaction between residential development and public forest management in northern Wisconsin, USA. Forest Science 51, 616–632.

Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity. Science 313, 940–943.
Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD28XotFCitbo%3D&md5=0c50ad3f867d0006079217644781016cCAS | 16825536PubMed | open url image1

Xu C, Gertner GZ, Scheller RM (2007) Potential effects of interaction between CO2 and temperature on Boundary Water Canoe Area’s forest landscape response to global warming. Global Change Biology 13, 1469–1483.
Potential effects of interaction between CO2 and temperature on Boundary Water Canoe Area’s forest landscape response to global warming.CrossRef | open url image1



Export Citation