Title: Developing resilient ponderosa pine forests with mechanical thinning and prescribed fire in central Oregon's pumice region
Author: Busse, Matt D.; Cochran, P.H.; Hopkins, William E.; Johnson, William H.; Riegel, Gregg M.; Fiddler, Gary O.; Ratcliff, Alice W.; Shestak, Carol J.
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research. Vol. 39(6): p. 1171-1185
Thinning and prescribed burning are common management practices for reducing fuel buildup in ponderosa pine forests. However, it is not well understood if their combined use is required to lower wildfire risk and to help restore natural ecological function. We compared 16 treatment combinations of thinning, prescribed fire, and slash retention for two decades across a site quality gradient of second-growth pine stands, measuring changes in forest vegetation growth, structure, and composition. Thinning alone doubled the diameter growth increment of ponderosa pine, moderately stimulated shrub production, and resulted in lower tree mortality compared with unthinned plots. In contrast, repeated fire alone did not substantially alter stand structure or increase tree vigor, herbaceous production, or plant diversity. The combined use of thinning and repeated burning reduced shrub cover, yet produced no changes in herbaceous production, plant diversity, stand structure, or tree vigor compared with thin-only treatments. Additional findings identified (1) inconsequential effects of thinning residues on site productivity, (2) the need for multiple entries of prescribed fire if the abatement of shrubs is required, (3) the ineffectiveness of repeated burning to stimulate plant growth, and (4) that the thinning treatment served as an effective surrogate to fire for managing central Oregon forest vegetation.
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Busse, Matt D.; Cochran, P.H.; Hopkins, William E.; Johnson, William H.; Riegel, Gregg M.; Fiddler, Gary O.; Ratcliff, Alice W.; Shestak, Carol J. 2009. Developing resilient ponderosa pine forests with mechanical thinning and prescribed fire in central Oregon's pumice region. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Volume 39, Number 6, pp. 1171-1185.
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