Wildfires are burning more acres, but have not grown in severity or negatively impacted ecosystems, study of four California national forests reveals
February 29, 2012
– Even though wildfires have increased in size over time, they haven’t necessarily grown in severity nor had corresponding negative impacts to the ecosystem, according to a recently published study appearing in the journal Ecological Applications.
A team of scientists from the USDA Forest Service and the University of California, Davis, assessed the size, severity and frequency of wildfires on four national forests—Klamath, Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers—of northwestern California from 1910 to 2008 and their effects on the ecosystem. Fire severity is measured by its impact on resources such as watersheds, wildlife habitat, soils, vegetation and forest products. “High” severity patches within fires are areas where greater than 95 percent of the forest canopy was killed.
The study’s key findings include:
Researchers note that these findings may be unique to the Klamath Mountains where the study was conducted. The steep, rugged mountains in northwestern California present different environmental features compared to the Sierra Nevada where similar studies did show a trend of increasing proportion of high severity over time.
“As we can see from these findings, one size does not fit all when it comes to managing wildfires,” says Carl Skinner, PSW geographer, who co-authored the study. “This study has some very important implications for fire and forest management policies. Our results support the idea that wildfires could be managed for ecological benefit in this bioregion.”
To read the full article, go to: http://treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/40143.
Headquartered in Albany, Calif., the Pacific Southwest Research develops and communicates science needed to sustain forest ecosystems and other benefits to society. It has laboratories and research centers in California, Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/psw/.