We are examining relationships between pre-fire forest conditions and the behavior and effects of the severe 2002 fires in subalpine forests in western Colorado. The study is based on high-quality and unique pre-fire data on the extent and severity of fires, blowdown, and beetle outbreak in areas of Routt and White River National Forests that were affected by the 2002 fires. The objectives of this research are to analyze and describe the influences of the pre-fire disturbance history on the extent and severity of the 2002 fires and ensuing forest recovery in subalpine forests of western Colorado. Regional and landscape analysis of our existing data and recent Forest Service spatial data sets of the 2002 fires are being conducted in a Geographic Information System (GIS). This analysis focuses on the interactions between sites' disturbance history and the spread and severity of the 2002 fires. In the field, finer scale (intra-stand) analysis is being conducted on disturbance interactions and post-fire recovery (i.e. tree regeneration). Our existing data and the 2002 fires present a unique opportunity to gain an understanding of the effects of large natural disturbances on fire behavior and post-fire recovery. Such information is critical to long-term forest planning and management in the context of probable future fires of high severity in Rocky Mountain subalpine forests.
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Veblen, Thomas; Kulakowski, Dominik. 2005. Effects of blowdown, beetle outbreak, and fire history on the behavior and effects of the 2002 fires in western Colorado. Joint Fire Science Project 03-2-2-01. Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. 8 p.