Title: Delayed conifer mortality after fuel reduction treatments: interactive effects of fuel, fire intensity, and bark beetles
Author: Youngblood, Andrew; Grace, James B.; McIver, James D.
Source: Ecological Applications. 19(2): 321-337
Many low-elevation dry forests of the Western United States contain more small trees and fewer large trees, more down woody debris, and less diverse and vigorous understory plant communities compared to conditions under historical fire regimes. These altered structural conditions may contribute to increased probability of unnaturally severe wildfires, susceptibility to uncharacteristic insect outbreaks, and drought-related mortality. Broad-scale fuel reduction and restoration treatments are proposed to promote stand development on trajectories toward more sustainable structures. Little research to date, however, has quantified the effects of these treatments on the ecosystem, especially delayed and latent tree mortality resulting directly or indirectly from treatments. In this paper, we explore complex hypotheses relating to the cascade of effects that influence ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) mortality using structural equation modeling (SEM). We used annual census and plot data through six growing seasons after thinning and four growing seasons after burning from a replicated, operational-scale, completely randomized experiment conducted in northeastern Oregon, USA, as part of the national Fire and Fire Surrogate study. SEM results indicate that the probability of mortality of large-diameter ponderosa pine from bark beetles and wood borers was directly related to surface fire severity and bole charring, which in turn depended on fire intensity, which was greater in units where thinning increased large woody fuels. These results have implications when deciding among management options for restoring ecosystem health in similar ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests.
Keywords: Burning, Douglas-fir, latent mortality, path models, ponderosa pine, restoration treatments, stand structure, structural equation modeling, thinning.
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Youngblood, Andrew; Grace, James B.; McIver, James D. 2009. Delayed conifer mortality after fuel reduction treatments: interactive effects of fuel, fire intensity, and bark beetles. Ecological Applications.19(2):321-337.
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