Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 36: Is That Tree Dead? Quantifying Fire-Killed Trees to Inform Salvage and Forest Management
Wildfires are natural disturbances in the western United States. Managing the resulting stands of dead and dying trees requires balancing conflicting priorities. Although these trees provide wildlife habitat and salvage logging revenue, they also pose public safety hazards.
One criticism of salvage logging is that forest managers may overpredict tree mortality and remove trees that will recover from their wildfire injuries. Sharon Hood, a research ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station, has studied tree mortality following wildfires to identify characteristics of fire injuries that will result in tree death. Through her research over the past decade, she has improved the First Order Fire Effects Model (FOFEM), a modeling tool that forest managers can use to predict tree mortality and subsequently plan for salvage and other management activities. In addition, she has collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (1) and the Pacific Southwest Region (5) staff to develop post-fire tree-marking guidelines to assist timber-marking crews laying out salvage sales. By adopting similar tree-marking guidelines through the use of FOFEM, forest managers can improve the efficiency, consistency, and transparency of salvage logging projects.