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Fire Ecology, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 1

Long-Term Surface Fuel Accumulation in Burned and Unburned Mixed-Conifer Forests of the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada, CA USA
Authors: MaryBeth Keifer, Jan W. van Wagtendonk, and Monica Buhler
Pages: 53-72
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.0201053

After nearly a century of fire exclusion in many central and southern Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forests, dead and down surface fuels have reached high levels without the recurring fires that consume the accumulated organic matter. The effects of prescribed fires used to reduce fuelloads and restore fire have been monitored in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks for over 30 years. Ten years following prescribed fire treatments in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, mean total fuel loads accumulated to 84 percent of pre-fire levels in ponderosa pineforests, 83 percent in white fir-mixed conifer, and 66 percent in giant sequoia-mixed conifer forests. Thirty-one years after burning, mean fuel load of fine and sound woody fuels increased in ponderosa pine research plots in Yosemite. Most fuel accumulation appeared to occur within the first decade after fire, however the post-fire fuel complex was different than that pre-fire. In areas that have remained unburned, surface fuel accumulation appears to be relatively slow and may indicate that decay rates have approached accumulation rates for the mixed-conifer forest types. This long-term information has important implications for fire management planning, including scheduling fuel hazard reduction and subsequent maintenance treatments.

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