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Category: Ecological Research

Title: Fact Sheet: Unsupported inferences of high-severity fire in historical dry forests of the western United States: response to Williams and Baker.

Author: * Fule, P.Z.

Subject: High Severity Fire, Historical Dry Forests

Abstract: A recent study in Global Ecology and Biogeography (Williams and Baker 2012, hereafter W&B) described the historical conditions of forest structure and fire regimes on four large landscapes in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon. W&B used notes made by land surveyors who worked in these landscapes in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a period before many impacts of modern land uses, such as large-scale fire control, took place. Based on these data, W&B developed an interpretation of past conditions in ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests that differs from previous research. W&B asserted that these forests historically included rela-tively high densities because of past fire regimes of moderate to high severity fires. Natural regeneration fol-lowing such fires would lead to numerous, small and similar aged trees. W&B concluded that current man-agement practices of thinning small trees and using low-severity prescribed burns would damage forests, ra-ther than restore them. The inferences drawn by W&B about past forest ecology contrast sharply those re-ported by numerous previous researchers, who used tree-ring and historical data to show that dry forests had predominantly surface fire regimes with relatively open, uneven-aged forests. A group of 18 forest ecol-ogists, concerned about the lack of scientific support for the conclusions by W&B, wrote a response (Fulé et al. 2013). This fact sheet summarizes the key issues of our response. A rebuttal to the response was pub-lished by Williams and Baker (2014).

Date: 2014

Type: Fact Sheet

Source: ERI - Fact Sheet

Identifier: 3p.

Publisher: Ecological Restoration Institute

Format: PDF

Language: English