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Benefits of treating old-growth stands


Mick Harrington



Publication type:

Miscellaneous Publication

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


In: EcoReport. Missoula, MT: Bitterroot Ecosystem Management Research Project: 8.


Old-growth ponderosa pine and western larch forests that developed as a result of frequent, low-intensity fires were once extensive in the Inland West, but now are rare due to historical logging and, more recently, severe wildfires. In response to missing several natural fire cycles, remaining stands of old trees are at increasingly greater risk from uncharacteristically high severity wildfire and insect and disease impacts. Fire suppression activities over almost a century have allowed dense ingrowth of mostly shade-tolerant species. In turn, this increased stand density creates ladder fuels (thickets of understory trees), increasing potential for high intensity wildfire and competition for site resources (soil moisture and nutrients). Land managers recognize this condition as unsustainable but have been generally reluctant to implement treatments because of uncertainty about effects on old-growth habitat.


Harrington, Mick. 2007. Benefits of treating old-growth stands. In: EcoReport. Missoula, MT: Bitterroot Ecosystem Management Research Project: 8.

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