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Project ID: 13-1-04-22

Year: 2013

Date Started: 05/01/2014

Date Completed: 07/25/2017

Title: Do Fuel Treatments Restore Ecosystem Function? Water Use Efficiency Before and After Fire Suppression and Fuels Treatments in Fire-Prone Pine Forests in the Western United States

Project Proposal Abstract: The recent increase the extent and severity of fires in dry western pine forests is an enormous concern for fire and resource managers and has led to a shift in forest management towards fuel treatment to reduce the potential for high severity fire. Treatments alter surface and canopy fuel characteristics to reduce potential fire intensity. Both modeling and observational studies demonstrate the effectiveness of fuel treatments in reducing fire intensity and tree mortality in forest stands and across forest landscapes. There is now a need to focus on the ecological outcomes of fuel treatments and evaluate their effectiveness in achieving restoration of ecosystem structure and function. One approach to measuring effectiveness is to compare immediate pre and post treatment conditions to a reference in this case conditions prior to Euro-American settlement. In this study we will compare a metric of ecosystem function derived from stable carbon isotopes in tree rings (´13C, iWUE) to evaluate the effectiveness of fuel treatments for ecological restoration. Specifically, we hypothesize that iWUE will increase after treatment and more so in mechanical+burned stands than mechanical only stands. We also hypothesize that immediate pre amd post treatment iWUE is lower than during the reference period. This metric may have widespread application for evaluating ecosystem restoration because it continuously records temporal changes in ecosystem function wherever trees grow. This work squarely addresses questions and requirements for proposals under JFSP Task 4 Fuel treatment effectiveness: ecosystem restoration. We will test our hypotheses by identifying variation in ?13C in tree rings from 1800 to 2012 at two Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) study sites (AZ, WA), by statistically comparing the effects of fuel treatments (control, mechanical, mechanical+burn) on iWUE, and by statistically comparing the pre and post treatment iWUE (20 year window) to iWUE in the reference period. We will also statistically identify the influence of climate variables on ring width measurements, basal area index (BAI), ´13C, and iWUE for the 212 year record at each site. This study will build on the legacy of FFS research on fuel treatment effects by testing a novel and robust metric of ecosystem function. This work will also contribute to and extend cutting edge research on using of tree ring isotopes to measure ecosystem function (Gross Primary Productivity, Net Ecosystem Exchange, Above Ground Net Primary Productivity) in forests in the context of regional carbon cycle dynamics. Managers will be engaged early and often in the course of this project. Science delivery will occur with a combination of reports, conference presentations, a Masters thesis, publication in referred journals, and non- refereed publications. We will work closely with SW and PNW fire science consortia to develop briefs and news items for this research that can be highlighted and distributed on their websites.

Principal Investigator: Alan H. Taylor

Agency/Organization: Pennsylvania State University

Branch or Dept: Department of Geography

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

David W. Richardson

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

OSPRA-Office of Sponsored Programs & Research Admin

Budget Contact

Susan A. Lavan

Pennsylvania State University

College of Earth & Mineral Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Soumaya U. Belmecheri

Pennsylvania State University

College of Earth & Mineral Sciences

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network








Pacific Coast States



Interior West


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   7922 Final Report Summary Final Report Summary

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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