Resilience of a ponderosa pine plantation to a backfiring operation during a mid-summer wildfireAuthor(s): Jianwei Zhang; Kaelyn A. Finley; Eric E. Knapp
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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The Mill Fire, which burned in north-western California during the summer of 2012, provided a unique research opportunity when firefighters implemented a backfiring operation to limit wildfire growth. This backfire was ignited and burned through research plots from a long-term study designed to determine the effects of tree density manipulation and shrub control on the growth and stand development of a ponderosa pine plantation. The objectives of this study were to examine the response of these 53-year-old trees to the backfire and to determine how the fire effects differed with plantation structure and composition. Measurements made 4 years post-fire showed that mortality rate was highly variable (from 0 to 100%) and did not relate to tree density, height of live crown, total basal area or shrub cover. Bole char height explained 65% of the variation in mortality rate. Fire appeared to spread primarily through the surface litter and killed a substantial proportion of the shrubs competing with the trees for water and nutrients. Importantly, post-fire tree growth was not significantly affected relative to pre-fire growth. A lack of negative effects of the fire on radial growth was possibly a result of release from inter-tree and shrub competition, which balanced any declines that might have been expected from bole injury or crown loss. Results from the present study demonstrate that ponderosa pine plantations could potentially be treated with managed fire (e.g. prescribed fire) without pretreatment (i.e. thinning, mastication), and still achieve good survival and improved resilience to wildfires burning under uncontrolled conditions.
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CitationZhang, Jianwei; Finley, Kaelyn A.; Knapp, Eric E. 2019. Resilience of a ponderosa pine plantation to a backfiring operation during a mid-summer wildfire. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 28(12): 981. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF19033.
Keywordsfire effects, overstorey density, prescribed fire, Pinus ponderosa, understorey shrubs, wildfire
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