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Modeling the Effects of Fire Management Alternatives on Sierra Nevada Mixed-Conifer Forests

Carol Miller and Dean L. Urban
Ecological Applications
Vol. 10, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 85-94
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2640988
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640988
Page Count: 10
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Modeling the Effects of Fire Management Alternatives on Sierra Nevada Mixed-Conifer Forests
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Abstract

Decades of fire exclusion have led to hazardous fuel accumulations and the deterioration of fire-dependent ecosystems, particularly in the American West. Managers are striving to return the ecological role of fire to many ecosystems and would benefit from a much better understanding of how forest structure and composition might change if fires were reintroduced. We used a forest gap model, developed for forests in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA, that integrates climate, fire, and forest dynamics to investigate forest response to changes in the fire regime. The model simulates a spatially heterogeneous fuel bed that is responsive to changes in forest condition, making it well suited for examining alternative management approaches for restoring Sierra Nevada forests after a century of fire exclusion. Presuppression forest basal area, species composition, and spatial autocorrelation structure were restored quickly, if simulated disturbances that caused substantial tree mortality were reintroduced. Simulations of harvest induced the highest levels of mortality and, thus, most effectively restored forest structure and composition. However, prescribed fires were just as effective in restoring forest structure and composition if they were sufficiently severe.

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