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Project ID: 06-3-3-13

Year: 2006

Date Started: 07/07/2006

Date Completed: 07/23/2009

Title: Estimating Canopy Fuels and Their Impacts on Potential Fire Behavior for Ponderosa Pine in the Black Hills, South Dakota

Project Proposal Abstract: A primary objective of stand level fuels reduction treatments is to reduce the risk of crown fire. Forest stand structure including canopy bulk density (CBD) and canopy base height (CBH) are two of the primary determinants of crown fire hazard. These measures of structure are derived from estimates of the amount and spatial distribution of canopy biomass. Low CBH results in a high risk of passive crown fire whereas high CBD results an increased risk of active crown fire. The goal of fuels reduction treatments in the Black Hills is to reduce stand densities, and subsequently CBD and CBH, below the threshold that will support crown fire. Because of the substantial influence both CBD and CBH have on crown fire initiation and crown fire spread, accurate estimates of the amount and vertical distribution of canopy fuels are crucial in determining initial effectiveness and planning for the long-term maintenance of fuels reduction treatments. This project will focus on the development of more accurate estimates of CBD and CBH from forest inventory data. We will develop relations to predict total canopy fuels for ponderosa pine in the Black Hills, South Dakota and a technique to predict the vertical distribution these canopy fuels. We will fell and measure the amount and vertical distribution of crown biomass for 80 large (>12 cm) and 80 small (< 12 cm) trees from ~ 8 - 10 stands planned for mechanical fuels reduction treatments. We will develop equations to estimate the amount and vertical distribution of canopy fuels from these data. Using these equations, standard inventory measures including tree DBH, height, and live crown ratio can then be used to estimate the amount and vertical distribution of canopy fuels for treated and untreated forest stands. We will use our results to determine whether current techniques produce sufficiently accurate estimates of canopy fuels to provide a realistic analysis of changed fire behavior from fuel treatments. Our results will identify whether a more accurate technique for vertical distribution of fuels within tree crowns will improve estimates of canopy bulk density. We will test the effect of our estimators of canopy fuel and canopy fuel distribution on the determination of canopy bulk density, canopy base height, and potential crown fire behavior in stands treated for fuels reduction in Black Hills ponderosa pine as compared to the current methods of prediction in FVS-FFE. We will provide our results to the Forest Management Service Center as a set of equations and documentation intended for incorporation into the FVS-FFE model. Accurate predictions of CBD and CBH are needed to plan for effective fuels reduction treatments in which the primary goal is to reduce crown fire hazard. Predictions of how CBD and CBH change following fuels reduction treatments and throughout forest stand development are crucial to maintaining the effectiveness of those fuels reduction treatments. If, as we hypothesize, current methods of predicting CBD and CBH underestimate actual CBD and CBH due to oversimplification of crown biomass and crown biomass distribution, current fuels reduction treatments may fall short of the primary goal to reduce the risk of active crown fire. Integrating site specific crown biomass equations and a more realistic depiction of the distribution of crown biomass would create a more accurate estimate of the forest canopy fuel structure. Incorporating these factors into a widely used fire management model like FVS-FFE would ensure that the most accurate predictions of CBD and CBH are used in creating fuels reduction treatments, assessing the effectiveness of the treatments, and planning for the long-term maintenance of more crown fire resistant forest structures.

Principal Investigator: Frederick W. Smith

Agency/Organization: Colorado State University

Branch or Dept: Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Wayne D. Shepperd



Federal Cooperator

Janine E. Powell

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Southern Rockies

There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1456 Government Publication A Managers Guide to Canopy Fuels
    2988 Dataset (including spatial) Sampling Protocols for Collecting Crown Biomass Data From Trees Felled in the Field
    5577 Field Demonstration/Tour KEVN Fox 7 News, Rapid City SD Regarding Purpose and Need for Research

Supporting Documents

The following supporting documents are available for this project.

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