Mechanical thinning, prescribed fire or both?

By Hilary Clark, Pacific Southwest Research Station
US Department of Agriculture
March 13, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

Pacific Southwest Research Station Ecologist Eric Knapp learned a lesson after the 2021 Antelope Fire burned through long-term research plots in northeastern California. “It was upsetting to think 20 years of research went up in flames,” Knapp said. Knapp and other scientists, initiated studies at this landscape, known as the Goosenest Adaptive Management Area, in the late 1990s. …Shortly after the fire the returned to the 2,300-acre study area to take stock of the damage. …Analysis of the data showed areas previously treated with thinning and prescribed burning fared best, with the most living trees. Untreated control areas where no treatments occurred were in the worst shape. At these sites, high-intensity crown fires completely consumed the needles and branches of many trees, leaving bare, blackened stems. Plots treated with either mechanical thinning or prescribed burns, but not both, came out somewhere in the middle, with about half of the trees dying.

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