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Interactive effects of insects, fire and climate on fuel loads and fire behavior in mixed conifer forest
This project is elucidating the effect of interactions of fire, defoliator insect outbreaks, and climate on fuel and fire behavior using simulation modeling fit to historical climate and disturbance histories developed from tree-ring reconstructions at 12 sites in mixed-conifer forests across a climate gradient from northeastern Oregon to western Montana.
We are focusing on the western spruce budworm outbreak history in mixed conifer forests from central Oregon to western Montana. Tree-ring records are used to reconstruct the timing and intensity of past insect outbreaks by comparing growth of host and non-host trees. From the same stands, we collected fire scars from stumps and living trees. At each site, fuel plots and stand age structures were also obtained.
Major questions being addressed include:
To address these questions, intensive sampling was conducted at each study site.
We are also using a physics-based dynamic fire model (Wildland Fire Dynamics Simulator or
WFDS) to examine how these fuel profiles affected potential fire
behavior, specifically by examining the counteracting effects of defoliation
in the form of decreased fuel moisture and decreased canopy bulk density.
Output of a WFDS simulation of a ground fire of a prescribed intensity transitioning to a patchy canopy fire.