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Project ID: 16-1-04-7

Year: 2016

Date Started: 05/01/2016

Ending Date:  11/30/2018

Title: Improved modeling of tree mortality from statistical sampling of recent wildfires on the West Coast

Project Proposal Abstract: Accurate predictions of mortality for trees exposed to fire are crucial for land managers that need to assess fire risk for individual stands or landscapes, or who need to decide whether or how to use prescribed fire in managed or unmanaged stands. Despite their importance, existing models that predict fire behavior, and empirical models that predict tree mortality from post-fire damage, are based on data from a narrow range of tree species, tree age and size classes, and climatic conditions. This project would develop new empirical models of fire-caused tree mortality from recent wildfires on federal lands in California, Oregon, and Washington, and compare their explanatory power with existing models. Standard fire behavior models estimate flame length and crown scorch to determine tree mortality, but other effects that may be just as important to tree physiology include the amount of live crown remaining, bole and root heating during fire, and exposure to drought prior to or following the fire. We plan to use existing field data that were collected in a probabilistic sample of all forest lands and large fires, thereby providing information on the full range of species and stand conditions that experience wildfire. Pre-fire data collected as part of the standard Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program will allow us to accurately calculate fuel loading and canopy structure to estimate fire behavior, instead of relying on reconstructions of conditions from post-fire measurements. We will compare modeled fire effects of crown scorch and mortality with targeted post-fire measurements of tree mortality and damage, fuel consumption, and soil effects collected in the year following wildfire. Subsequent inventory measurements in the years following the fire (post-post-fire) make it possible to assess delayed mortality of trees that initially survived the fire. Pre- and post-fire data have been collected and available for analysis on 510 plots; post-post-fire data are available for 116 plots with an additional 48 expected to become available during the study period. Our proposed analyses will calculate fire effects from the pre-fire field measurements and estimates of weather and fuel moisture for the day each plot burned, using standard fire behavior models used by managers. We will compare measured crown scorch to predicted crown scorch and conduct a sensitivity analysis of modifications to model inputs that could improve accuracy of existing models without needing to rebuild them completely. We will also compare measured mortality rates to modeled predictions based on crown scorch, and investigate whether additional tree- and stand-level metrics of fire damage to crowns, boles, and roots can improve model predictions. Finally, we plan to compare measured and predicted tree mortality rates among individual wildfires, and evaluate whether other unmeasured attributes explain differences in mortality, including pre- and post-fire drought intensity, stand age, and plant community. This project would expand the range of available data on tree mortality over a broad geographic area, evaluate improvements to existing models with additional fire severity measures, and examine the influence of drought conditions and stand disturbance history on tree mortality following wildfire events.

Principal Investigator: Andrew N. Gray

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: PNW-RMA-Resource Monitoring & Assessment-Corvallis

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Vi T. Ta

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Budget Contact

Phillip A. Won

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Jeremy S. Fried

Forest Service

PNW-RMA-Resource Monitoring & Assessment-Portland

Co-Principal Investigator

Vicente J. Monleon

Forest Service

PNW-RMA-Resource Monitoring & Assessment-Corvallis

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network








Pacific Coast States


Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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