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    Author(s): Jonathan Thompson
    Date: 2006
    Source: Science Findings 81. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p
    Publication Series: Science Findings
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (880.0 KB)


    In the mid-1990s, forest managers on the Malheur National Forest were concerned about their prescribed fire program. Although they have only a few weeks of acceptable conditions available in the spring and fall, they were worried that spring-season prescribed burning might be exacerbating black stain root disease and having negative effects on understory plants.

    Working closely with forest managers, PNW Research Station scientists designed an experiment tailored to the problem. Prescribed fires were set in the fall and spring. The stands were then monitored for several years to determine the response of understory plants, black stain root disease development, and ponderosa pine tree mortality. Although more trees died in fires set in the fall, the season of burn did not really matter. What did matter was the severity of fire and the amount of damage to the trees. There was also no evidence that burn season influenced the understory native perennial (longlived) grasses and forbs. However, exotic and native short-lived species were more abundant in the areas burned in the fall. As with tree mortality patterns, fire severity is probably driving this pattern. Short-lived native plants showed postfire invasion and spread patterns similar to exotics, but exotics were more abundant than natives.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Thompson, Jonathan. 2006. Prescribed fires are not created equal: fire season and severity effects in ponderosa pine forests of the southern Blue Mountains. Science Findings 81. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p

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