Fuel loading following fuel-reduction treatments and impacts from natural disturbancesThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
A long-term study of fuel-reduction treatments (mechanical fuel removal, prescribed burning, and the combination of mechanical treatment and burning) was begun in 2000 and 2001 for sites located in the Piedmont of South Carolina and the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, respectively. During this time multiple natural disturbances [southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) infestations and ice storms] occurred that allowed us to observe effects that fuel-reduction treatments had on impacts from these disturbances at these two sites. After 8 years and multiple natural disturbances, the mechanical treatment at the Piedmont site showed little difference in fine fuel and 1,000-hour fuel loadings from the control, whereas the mechanical+burn treatment had significantly less fuel. For the Appalachian site, an ice storm event in 2005 resulted in large inputs of fine fuels in the mechanical treatment and control units. Two years later, fine fuel loadings in those treatments were still significantly higher than that measured in the burn and mechanical+burn treatments; however, units treated with prescribed fire had greater 1,000-hour fuel loadings. Predicted fire behavior following fuel-reduction treatments, ice storms, and/or pine beetle infestations was lowest for the mechanical treatment at the Piedmont site and for the burn and mechanical+burn treatments at the Appalachian site. Changing fuel loadings through fuel-reduction techniques can have important effects on fire behavior by altering fuel structure and may influence the impact of natural disturbances in treated stands.