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Forest fire prevention efforts will lessen carbon sequestration, add to greenhouse warming
Date:7/8/2009

y off best and what values are most important."

The report was just published in Ecological Applications, a professional journal. The lead author was Stephen Mitchell, who conducted the work as part of his doctoral thesis while at OSU, and is now at Duke University. Among the findings:

  • Fuel reduction treatments that have been proposed to reduce wildfire severity also reduce the carbon stored in forests;

  • On west side Cascade Range and Coast Range forests, which are wetter, the catastrophic fire return interval is already very long, and the additional levels of fuel accumulation have not been that unusual;

  • A wide range of fire reduction approaches, such as salvage logging, understory removal, prescribed fire and other techniques, can effectively reduce fire severity if used properly;

  • Such fuel removal almost always reduces carbon storage more than the additional carbon the stand is able to store when made more resistant to wildfire, in part because most of the carbon stored in forest biomass remains unconsumed even by high-severity wildfires;

  • Considerable uncertainty exists in modeling of future fires, and some fuel reduction techniques, especially overstory thinning treatments, could potentially lead to an increase in fire severity.

The study authors concluded that fuel reduction may still make more sense in east-side Cascade Range and other similar forests, but that the west-side Cascades and Coast Range have little sensitivity to forest fuel reduction treatments and might be best utilized for their high carbon sequestration capacities.

"Ultimately, the real problem here is global climate change," Harmon said. "Insect epidemics are increasing, trees are dying. There are no quick fixes to these issues."


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Contact: Mark Harmon
mark.harmon@oregonstate.edu
541-737-8455
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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