United States and Australia, relied upon data from the U.S. Fire and Fire Surrogates Study, in addition to a wide range of other studies. Together, the studies represented a broad spectrum of ecological markers, detailing the effects of fuelreduction treatments on wildlife, vegetation, bark beetles, soil properties and carbon sequestration.
“Some question if these fuel-reduction treatments are causing substantial harm, and this paper says no,” said Stephens. “The few effects we did see were usually transient. Based upon what we’ve found, forest managers can increase the scale and pace of necessary fuels treatments without worrying about unintended ecological consequences.”
A few of the researchers’ specific ecological findings include:
• For the first five years after treatment, some birds and small mammals that prefer shady, dense habitat moved out of treated areas, while others that prefer more open environments thrived. The study authors said these changes were minor and acceptable.
• When mechanical tree thinning was followed by prescribed fire, there was an increase in the overall diversity of vegetation. However, this also included non-native plant
A prescribed fire in the central Sierra Nevada is set to reduce fuel that could otherwise feed a catastrophic wildfire. (Jason Moghaddas photo)