Determining reference conditions for ecosystem management of southwestern ponderosa pine forests
The authors reconstructed the fire regime and forest structure of a southwestern ponderosa pine forest prior to Euro-American settlement to determine a set of reference conditions as a baseline for ecosystem management.
Historically, fire was highly synchronous across the region and appeared to be linked to climate conditions. The cessation of fire beginning around 1883 in these forests has led to an abundance of resprouting oak, a species typically highly susceptible to fire. In contrast to presettlement conditions, currently there is abundant fuel able to support high?intensity fire behavior, including torching through live fuel ladders and crown fire, in hot, dry, windy weather. However, herbaceous fuel loading is probably greatly reduced in the contemporary forest.