Outcomes prioritization on fuel treatment placement in extreme fire weather in 3 CFLRP landscapes - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program
Document Type: Report
Author(s): E. Louise Loudermilk; Robert M. Scheller; Matthew D. Hurteau
Publication Year: 2018

Cataloging Information

  • CFLRP - Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program
  • decision making
  • fire simulations
  • Florida
  • forest management
  • fuel treatment effectiveness
  • Oregon
  • thinning
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 6, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 58742


Active forest management practices for reducing fire risk and enhancing forest integrity have become necessary in many U.S. forests. The risks of inaction and escalating costs of continued fire suppression far outweigh the risks of implementation. If the goal is to maximize the long-term efficacy of treatments, then creating and maintaining a more fire-resilient forest should be a priority. Strategic placement of thinning treatments coupled with regular prescribed fire could expand the efficacy of treatments in terms of long-term forest integrity over larger portions of the landscape. Predicting landscape fuel treatment effectiveness is confounded by uncertainty in future fire weather, especially during more “extreme” fire weather conditions that are likely to occur as the climate warms, with increasing frequency and variability throughout this century. We focused our research on three landscapes associated with the federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, namely the Dinkey Creek watershed: within the Sierra National Forest (NF), Malheur NF, and Osceola NF, which all have ongoing fuel treatment programs. The overall objective of this study was to develop prioritization strategies for implementing fuel treatments across these three landscapes, with the goal of maximizing treatment efficacy using optimal placement and prescriptions under extreme fire weather conditions to create more fire resilient landscapes. For all three landscapes, we used the Landscape Disturbance and Succession model, LANDIS-II v.6.0, which is used for understanding ecosystem dynamics, feedbacks associated with wildfire, and fuel treatment effectiveness across space and time. We simulated the regeneration and growth of vegetation, detritus and soil nutrient cycling, heterotrophic respiration, stochastic wildfires, and forest treatments (harvesting, thinning, and prescribed fire). We implemented multiple model scenarios, namely a no-management scenario to determine landscape fire risk, a typical fuel treatment scenario, a prioritized treatments scenario based on simulated fire risk from the no-management scenario. These scenarios were run with contemporary and extreme fire weather conditions. For all three study sites, we found that prioritizing treatments to simulated high fire risk areas yielded comparable treatment efficacy to the other less strategic or typical approaches, but with fewer management inputs. Treatment efficacy is strictly from the landscape perspective, in terms of enhancing carbon sequestration potential, reducing wildfire area burned and reducing fire severity. This provides managers with a model-informed decision framework that can be used for developing spatial placement options for long-term treatment planning. Importantly, the continued application of prescribed fire in perpetuity was required in all instances to maintain landscape scale benefits. Our results suggest that using treated areas to restore surface fire within and between stands in the short-term can yield long-term carbon storage gains (i.e. low overstory mortality through time) across the landscape, particularly later in the century when extreme fire weather is more likely to occur. Long-term prescribed fires maintained a fire-resilient system in terms of increasing forest carbon sequestration potential, reducing long-term emissions from wildfire (when compared to no-management projections), reducing the intensity and severity of wildfires when they do occur in those areas, and is considerably less expensive than mechanical treatments. Only at the more local scale did we find site-specific effects between the treatment placement scenarios. As such, the consideration of localized effects is often site-specific and reliant on local expertise and careful planning. Long-term prioritization approaches to implementing treatment, particularly with the continuation of prescribed fire has been found here to be the most optimal approaches to maintaining carbon stability and increasing fire resilience.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (1.4 MB; pdf)
Loudermilk, E. Louise; Scheller, Robert M.; Hurteau, Matthew D. 2018. Outcomes prioritization on fuel treatment placement in extreme fire weather in 3 CFLRP landscapes - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. JFSP Project No. 14-1-01-2. Athens, GA: US Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 37 p.