Ecological Effects of Prescribed Fire Season: A Literature Review and Synthesis for Managers

TitleEcological Effects of Prescribed Fire Season: A Literature Review and Synthesis for Managers
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsKnapp, EE, Estes, BL, Skinner, CN
Series TitleGeneral Technical Report
Document NumberPSW-GTR-224
Date Published09/2009
InstitutionUS Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
CityRedding, CA
Keywordsfire effects and fire ecology, fire intensity, fire season, fuel consumption, historical fire regime, phenology, prescribed burning, pyrodiversity, synthesis, technical reports and journal articles

Prescribed burning may be conducted at times of the year when fires were infrequent historically, leading to concerns about potential adverse effects on vegetation and wildlife. Historical and prescribed fire regimes for different regions in the continental United States were compared and literature on season of prescribed burning synthesized. In regions and vegetation types where considerable differences in fuel consumption exist among burning seasons, the effects of prescribed fire season appears, for many ecological variables, to be driven more by fire-intensity differences among seasons than by phenology or growth stage of organisms at thetime of fire. Where fuel consumption differs little among burning seasons, the effect of phenology or growth stage of organisms is often more apparent, presumably because it is not overwhelmed by fire-intensity differences. Most species in ecosys tems that evolved with fire appear to be resilient to one or few out-of-season prescribed burn(s). However, a variable fire regime including prescribed burns at different times of the year may alleviate the potential for undesired changes and maximize biodiversity.