Role of burning season on initial understory vegetation response to prescribed fire in a mixed conifer forest
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Eric E. Knapp; Dylan W. Schwilk; Jeffrey M. Kane; Jon E. Keeley
Publication Year: 2007

Cataloging Information

  • burn season
  • exotic species
  • FFS - Fire and Fire Surrogate Study
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • Sequoia National Forest
  • Sierra Nevada
  • species richness
  • thinning
  • vegetation
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: April 4, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 267


Although the majority of fires in the western United States historically occurred during the late summer or early fall when fuels were dry and plants were dormant or nearly so, early-season prescribed burns are often ignited when fuels are still moist and plants are actively growing. The purpose of this study was to determine if burn season influences postfire vegetation recovery. Replicated early-season burn, late-season burn, and unburned control units were established in a mixed conifer forest, and understory vegetation was evaluated before and after treatment. Vegetation generally recovered rapidly after prescribed burning. However, late-season burns resulted in a temporary but significant drop in cover and a decline in species richness at the 1m^2 scale in the following year. For two of the several taxa that were negatively affected by burning, the reduction in frequency was greater after late-season than early-season burns. Earl-season burns may have moderated the effect of fire by consuming less fuel and lessening the amount of soil heating. Our results suggest that, when burned under high fuel loading conditions, many plant species respond more strongly to difference in fire intensity and severity than to timing of the burn relative to stage of plant growth.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (189 KB; full text; pdf)
Knapp, Eric E., Schwilk, Dylan W.; Kane, Jeffrey M.; Keeley, Jon E. 2007. Role of burning season on initial understory vegetation response to prescribed fire in a mixed conifer forest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 37(1):11-22.