Prescribed fire is commonly used by managers in the western U.S. to remove potential wildfire fuel, such as small trees and shrubs. It is thought that this act of selectively removing trees helps remaining trees better survive drought events because there is less competition for water. Focusing on California’s central and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, USGS supported researchers are working to identify whether current prescribed burning practices are sufficient to help forests survive drought, or whether these practices could be modified to meet this goal under increasingly frequent drought conditions. A variety of approaches are being used, including remote sensing, plot-based measures, and landscape models. Such information should enable managers to develop portfolio-based resource management decisions, such as where prescribed fire might be most effectively applied, and guide additional research and monitoring determine to what degree this method can be used to prepare forests for a warmer and drier future.
Research support from: Southwest Climate Science Center