Skip to main content

Managing burned landscapes: evaluating future management strategies for resilient forests under a warming climate

Kristen L. Shive, Peter Z. Fulé, Carolyn Hull Sieg, Barbara A. Strom, Molly E. Hunter


Summary - what did the authors do and why?

Using the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS), the authors examined the effects of projected climate scenarios on future forest trajectories of ponderosa pine ecosystems in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, and they further examined the potential effects of management strategies, including prescribed fire, to mitigate climate effects and increase resilience.

Publication findings:

Under all projections of future climate change, the authors found that ponderosa pine basal area was reduced significantly, and under A2 scenarios (continued increase in carbon emissions), ponderosa pine were eliminated from the site. However, those areas that burned at high severity in the Rodeo-Chediski fire that had received treatment prior to the wildfire had consistently higher future basal area than untreated areas in all simulations, suggesting that the spatial arrangement of treatments highly influences forest structure and recovery. They also found that 10- to 20-year prescribed fire intervals in areas that burned at high severity were too frequent to maintain basal areas of ponderosa pine within the historical range of variation under the most extreme climate scenarios. Prescribed fire was, however, effective at maintaining low-severity sites initially dominated by smaller diameter trees.

Climate and Fire Linkages

Under all projections of future climate change, the authors found that ponderosa pine basal area was reduced significantly, and under A2 scenarios (continued increase in carbon emissions), ponderosa pine were eliminated from the site. 10- to 20-year prescribed fire intervals in areas that burned at high severity were too frequent to maintain basal areas of ponderosa pine within the historical range of variation under the most extreme climate scenarios. Prescribed fire was, however, effective at maintaining low-severity sites initially dominated by smaller diameter trees.

Fire and Ecosystem Effects Linkages

Those areas that burned at high severity in the Rodeo-Chediski fire that had received treatment prior to the wildfire had consistently higher future basal area than untreated areas in all simulations, suggesting that the spatial arrangement of treatments highly influences forest structure and recovery.

The authors found that 10- to 20-year prescribed fire intervals in areas that burned at high severity were too frequent to maintain basal areas of ponderosa pine within the historical range of variation under the most extreme climate scenarios. Prescribed fire was, however, effective at maintaining low-severity sites initially dominated by smaller diameter trees.