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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Nicole M. Vaillant; Alicia L. Reiner; Erin K. Noonan
Publication Date: 2013

To better understand the impact of prescribed fire on carbon stocks, we quantified aboveground and belowground carbon stocks within five pools (live trees and coarse roots, dead trees and coarse roots, live understory vegetation, down woody debris, and litter and duff) and potential carbon emissions from a simulated wildfire before and up to 8 years after prescribed fire treatments. Total biomass carbon (sum of all the pools) was significantly lower 1 year post-treatment than pre-treatment and returned to 97% of pre-treatment levels by 8 year post-treatment primarily from increases in the tree carbon pool. Prescribed fire reduced predicted wildfire emissions by 45% the first year after treatment and remained reduced through 8 year post-treatment (34%). Net carbon (total biomass minus simulated wildfire emissions) resulted in a source (10.4-15.4 Mg ha-1) when field-derived values were compared to simulated controls for all post-treatment time periods. However, the incidence of potential crown fire in the untreated simulations was at least double for the 2 year and 8 year post-treatment time periods than in the treated plots. We also compared field-derived estimates to simulated values using the Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FFE-FVS). In our validation of FFE-FVS to predict carbon stocks, the model performed well for the total biomass carbon (4% difference); however, there was great variability within the individual carbon pools. Live tree carbon had the highest correlation between field-derived and simulated values, and dead tree carbon the lowest correlation and highest percent differences followed by herb and shrub carbon. The lack of trends and variability between the field-derived and simulated carbon pools other than total biomass indicate caution should be used when reporting carbon in the individual pools.

Online Links
Citation: Vaillant, Nicole M.; Reiner, Alicia L.; Noonan-Wright, Erin. 2013. Prescribed fire effects on field-derived and simulated forest carbon stocks over time. Forest Ecology and Management 310:711-719.

Cataloging Information

  • Abies concolor
  • Acer macrophyllum
  • bigleaf maple
  • California black oak
  • Calocedrus decurrens
  • canyon live oak
  • carbon stock
  • coniferous forests
  • Douglas-fir
  • duff
  • FFE-FVS - Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator
  • fire management
  • forest management
  • fuel management
  • heavy fuels
  • incense cedar
  • Jeffrey pine
  • Juniperus occidentalis
  • Lithocarpus densiflorus
  • litter
  • Mediterranean habitats
  • model validation
  • model validation
  • national forests
  • pine hardwood forests
  • Pinus jeffreyi
  • Pinus lambertiana
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • Quercus chrysolepis
  • Quercus kelloggii
  • roots
  • snags
  • sugar pine
  • tanoak
  • understory vegetation
  • western juniper
  • white fir
Tall Timbers Record Number: 29740Location Status: Not in fileCall Number: AvailableAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 16216

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.