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A 6 year longitudinal study of post-fire woody carbon dynamics in California's forests

Formally Refereed
Authors: Bianca N.I. Eskelson, Vicente J. Monleon, Jeremy S. Fried
Year: 2016
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research


We examined the dynamics of aboveground forest woody carbon pools — live trees, standing dead trees, and down wood—during the first 6 years following wildfire across a wide range of conditions, which are characteristic of California forest fires. From repeated measurements of the same plots, we estimated change in woody carbon pools as a function of crown fire severity as indicated by a post-fire index, years since fire, pre-fire woody carbon, forest type group (hardwood vs. softwood), elevation, and climate attributes. Our analysis relied on 130 U.S. national forest inventory plots measured before and 1 year after fire, with one additional remeasurement within 6 years after fire. There was no evidence of net change in total wood carbon, defined for this study as the wood in standing trees larger than 12.7 cm diameter at breast height and down wood larger than 7.6 cm in diameter, over the post-fire period in any of the three severity classes. Stands that burned at low severity exhibited considerable shifts from live to standing dead and down wood pools. In stands that burned at moderate severity, live wood decreased significantly whereas no net change was detected in standing dead or down wood. High severity fire burning resulted in movement from standing dead to down wood pools. Our results suggest that the carbon trajectories for stand-replacing fires may not be appropriate for the majority of California’s forest area that burned at low to moderate severities.


longitudinal analysis, post-fire dynamics, forest stand recovery, disturbance, Forest Inventory and Analysis


Eskelson, Bianca N.I.; Monleon, Vicente J.; Fried, Jeremy S. 2016. A 6 year longitudinal study of post-fire woody carbon dynamics in California's forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 46(5): 610-620.