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Compared to historic conditions, many forests in the U.S. are now more dense and have more down fuels. For years, managers have recognized this problem and have acted to reduce stem density and fuels by thinning, burning, and/or fuel treatments.

Although silvicultural treatments can mimic the effects of fire on structural patterns of woody vegetation, prior to this study virtually no comparative data existed on how these treatments mimic ecological functions of fire. For many, the long term goal of these treatments is to restore historic ecosystem structure and function. While silvicultural treatments can create patterns of woody vegetation that appear similar to those that fire would create, the consequences for nutrient cycling, seed scarification, plant diversity, disease and insect abundance, and wildlife were mostly unknown. Similarly, although combining managed fire with silvicultural treatments adds the critical effects of combustion, we knew little about ecological effects, economics, and fire hazard reduction of these methods.

The Fire-Fire Surrogate (FFS) study responded to this void in our knowledge.

The USDI-USDA Joint Fire Science Program provided funding for a long-term study that assessed how ecological components or processes may be changed or lost, if fire "surrogates" such as cuttings and mechanical fuel treatments are used instead of fire, or in combination with fire.

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