Testing & Evaluating Management Practices

We strive to apply novel thinking in order to develop innovative approaches to current and projected forest management challenges in the West. Increasingly, we see a need for operationally-efficient treatments that can acheive an expanding array of forest objectives while maintaining or enhancing forest resilience and management flexibility. Current and recent examples include the following:

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Forest Resilience and Variable Retention Harvesting

Exploring the viability of overstory retention cutting as a technique to foster greater resilience in disturbance-prone forest ecosystems. An ongoing study at Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest (U.S. Forest Service) in Montana is comparing dispersed and grouped retention methods on lodgepole pine forest growth, regeneration, and mortality. Using data collected from national forests in central Oregon, we are determining the tradeoffs of overstory retention by modeling the relationship of residual overstory density levels to ponderosa pine seedling recruitment and growth.

Forest Fire Threats and Forest Restoration Treatments

Exploring best practices for silvicultural fuel treatments that restore wildifire resistence to ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests. Recent projects have investigated the unique fuel loading and potential fire behavior aspects of old-growth stands; tree mortality threats associated with prescribed burning; and the effects of hazard fuel and restoration thinnings on spatial complexity. A project at Lubrecht Experimental Forest's Fire & Fire Surrogates installation is addressing post-treatment fuel dynamics, in order to better understand the effective longevity of different hazard fuel treatments.

Forest Productivity and Biomass Fuel Harvesting

Evaluating the potential effects of biofuels harvesting on forest condition and productivity. An ongoing study is addressing this problem at Coram Experimental Forest (U.S Forest Service), where a unique series of treatments estabilshed in 1974 has produced ideal conditions for relating biomass harvest levels to post-treatment soil and vegetation responses. We are also exploring other topics indirectly related to biomass harvesting. For example, a study at UM's Memorial Greenhouse is evaluating the added-value potential of biochar (a biofuel pyrolysis byproduct) as a surrogate for non-renewable materials used in container seedling production. Another study at Lubrecht Experimental Forest is examining the effects of slash pile burning - a slash disposal method that is likely to continue in the absence of a biofuels market - on soil heating and productivity, and is seeking to identify the best strategies for conducting this common forestry practice.