This study used a model of forest dynamics (FORCLIM) and actual forest survey data to demonstrate the effects of various fire regimes on different forest types in the Pacific Northwest. We examined forests in eight ecoregions ranging from wet coastal forests dominated by Pseudotsuga menziesii and other tall conifers to dry interior forests dominated by Pinus ponderosa. Fire effects simulated as elevated mortality of trees based on their species and size did alter forest structure and species composition. Low frequency fires characteristic of wetter forests (return interval >200 yr) had minor effects on composition. When fires were severe, they tended to reduce total basal area with little regard to species differences. High frequency fires characteristic of drier forests (return interval <30 yr) had major effects on species composition and on total basal area. Typically, they caused substantial reductions in total basal area and shifts in dominance toward highly fire tolerant species. With the addition of fire, simulated basal areas averaged across ecoregions were reduced to levels approximating observed basal areas.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Modeling the Effects of Fire Frequency and Severity on Forests in the Northwestern United States