Almost half of Redwood National Park is comprised of second-growth forests characterized by high stand density, deficient redwood composition, and low understory biodiversity. Typical structure of young redwood stands impedes the recovery of old-growth conditions, such as dominance of redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.), distinct canopy layers and diverse understory vegetation. Young forests are commonly comprised of dense, even-aged Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) and redwood stump sprouts, with simple canopy structure and little understory development. Moreover, many of these young stands are believed to be vulnerable to disturbance in the form of drought, disease and fire.
Silvicultural practices are increasingly being employed by conservation agencies to restore degraded forests throughout the coast redwood range; however, prescribed fire treatments are less common and potentially under-utilized as a restoration tool. We present an early synthesis from three separate management-scale prescribed fire projects at Redwood National Park spanning 1to 7 years post-treatment. Low intensity prescribed fire had minimal effect on overstory structure, with some mortality observed in trees smaller than 30 cm diameter. Moderate to high intensity fire may be required to reduce densities of larger Douglas-fir, the primary competitor of redwood in the Park’s second growth forests. Fine woody surface fuels fully recovered by 7 years post-burn, while recruitment of larger surface fuels was quite variable. Managers of coastal redwood ecosystems will benefit by having a variety of tools at their disposal for forest restoration and management.