The ecological role of fire in Sierran conifer forests: its application to national park management
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Bruce M. Kilgore
Publication Year: 1973

Cataloging Information

  • fire frequency
  • mosaic
  • nutrient cycling
  • seedbed preparation
  • Sierran conifer forests
  • succession
  • wildlife habitat
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 15, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 19312


The impact of fire on the environment of the various Sierran conifer forests varies with intensity and frequency. Generally, however, fire (1) prepares a seedbed; (2) cycles nutrients within the system; (3) adjusts the successional pattern; (4) modifies conditions affecting wildlife; (5) influences the mosaic of age classes and vegetation types; (6) alters the numbers of trees susceptible to disease and insects; and (7) both reduces and creates fire hazards. Natural fire frequency apparently coincides with levels of fuel accumulation that result in burns of relatively low intensity at frequent intervals. This may average 8 yr in mixed conifer forests, although frequencies from 4 to 20 yr or more are found in particular sites. In all probability, giant sequoia and various pines of the Sierra survive today because of the role fire plays in the various forest types. National Park Service management policies are aimed at restoring fire, as nearly as possible, to its natural role in Sierran conifer forests. This is being accomplished by prescribed burning at lower and middle elevation types and by allowing lightning fires to burn in higher elevation forests.

Online Link(s):
Kilgore, Bruce M. 1973. The ecological role of fire in Sierran conifer forests: its application to national park management. Quaternary Research 3(3):496-513.