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Project ID: 09-1-06-5

Year: 2009

Date Started: 09/07/2009

Date Completed: 05/11/2013

Title: Interactions of Insects, Fire and Climate on Fuel Loads and Fire Behavior in Mixed Conifer Forests

Project Proposal Abstract: We propose a 3-year project to elucidate the effect of interactions of fire, insect outbreaks, windthrow, and climate on fuel and fire behavior using simulation modeling fit to historical climate and disturbance histories developed from tree-ring reconstructions at 22 sites in mixed-conifer forests across a climate gradient from northeastern Oregon to western Montana. We will test three hypotheses: H1: Climate directly influences fuel dynamics through rates of establishment and mortality. H2: Climate, such as prolonged drought, and disturbance history predispose stands to subsequent disturbance. H3: The strength and type of disturbance interactions vary among climatic regions. While fire and insect outbreak histories have already been reconstructed by us and others in this region, unfortunately they rarely have been reconstructed at the same site. We will take advantage of prior work by reconstructing fire histories at sites with existing insect histories and vice versa as well as sampling both at a few new sites. We will use a mechanistic, process-driven stand dynamics model (FIRE-BGC) to examine how interactions of historical climate and disturbances influenced fuel profiles through time. We will use a physics-based dynamic fire model (Wildland Fire Dynamics Simulator or WFDS) to examine how these fuel profiles affected potential fire behavior through time. While our modeling strategy allows us to address in detail the complexity of interacting influences of forest structure and fuel condition on fire behavior, the geographic breadth and temporal depth of the historical data allow us to address large-scale patterns in time and space. In combination, these approaches allow us to test hypotheses across a suite of spatial and temporal scales, from fires burning within a stand over a few minutes to broad climate-fire-insect interactions spanning hundreds of kilometers and hundreds of years. In addition to providing scientists with new information on the disturbance ecology of mixed-conifer forests, we expect three major benefits for managers. First, we will identify which disturbance types interact strongly and provide a mechanistic explanation for contingencies among those interactions. Second, we will modify simulation models of stand dynamics so that they can be used to explore the consequences of alternate management actions and climate change on fuel profiles and fire behavior. Third, our multi-century, regional-scale study that spans a climatic gradient will identify the scales of time and space over which interacting disturbances significantly alter fuel and fire behavior in this region and hence at which scales management actions can most successfully be focused - information which is critically needed during this time of climate change. Furthermore, our retrospective approach will provide the information on historical conditions that Forest Service managers are required to use by the recently published Interim Directive FSM 2020 Ecological Restoration and Resilience. Although our study will be conducted in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, it will investigate forest and disturbance types that are widely distributed across the Interior West and so our work should be broadly applicable. Our research thus addresses Task F of JFSP FA-RFA09-0001

Principal Investigator: Daniel G. Gavin

Agency/Organization: University of Oregon

Branch or Dept: Department of Geography

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Emily K. Heyerdahl

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

Russell A. Parsons

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Cooperator

Russell A. Parsons

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Fiscal Representative

Susan T. Major

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies







Pacific Coast States


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
  go to website 109 Ph.D. Dissertation Western Spruce Budworm, Climate, and Forest Fire Interactions in the Interior Pacific Northwest: A M
view or print   1729 Government Publication Isolating the Effects of Western Spruce Budworm
view or print go to website 3339 Journal Article PLos One
view or print   3337 Journal Article International Journal of Wildland Fire
view or print go to website 3338 Journal Article Forest Ecology and Management
view or print go to website 7052 Photo Photo of budworm defoliation
view or print go to website 7053 Photo Photo of defoliation
view or print go to website 7054 Photo photo of defoliation by western spruce budworm

Supporting Documents

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