Tamm Review: Ecological principles to guide post-fire forest landscape management in the Inland Pacific and Northern Rocky Mountain regions

Andrew J. Larson, Sean M.A. Jeronimo, Paul F. Hessburg, James A. Lutz, Nicholas A. Povak, C. Alina Cansler, Van R. Kane, Derek J. Churchill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Post-fire landscapes are the frontline of forest ecosystem change. As such, they represent opportunities to foster conditions that are better adapted to future climate and wildfires with post-fire management. In western US landscapes, post-fire management has been mostly defined by short-term emergency mitigation measures, salvage harvest to recover economic value, and replanting to achieve full stocking. These approaches are largely incongruent with ecologically based forest management due to their limited scope and objectives. Here, we develop a framework for ecologically based post-fire management. Post-fire management principles are to (i) protect large-diameter trees and fire refugia; (ii) anticipate future fuel accumulation from post-fire tree mortality; (iii) reinitiate and maintain stabilizing fire-vegetation feedbacks; (iv) differentiate between climate- and dispersal-mediated transitions to non-forest; and (v) align species composition and structure with future fire regimes and climate. Stand-scale management strategies to implement these principles include (i) maintain or enhance forest resilience; (ii) restore forest conditions and resist transition to non-forest; and (iii) accept or facilitate transition to non-forest. Determining where and over what extent to deploy these stand-scale strategies in large, burned landscapes is informed by a post-fire landscape evaluation, and expressed with a landscape prescription. A post-fire landscape evaluation is a data-driven characterization of current vegetation conditions, including the immediate changes caused by wildfire, and includes a departure analysis—an evaluation of current conditions against reference conditions. The landscape prescription provides guidance about the distribution of different successional patches and their sizes across the topographic template and identifies priority areas for different post-fire treatments. We develop a geospatial framework to integrate ecological principles with a post-fire landscape evaluation that can be readily applied to management planning after wildfire. We illustrate application of these principles through the development of landscape prescriptions for two watersheds, each burned in a recent large fire, in northeast Washington, USA. Use of ecologically based post-fire management principles and landscape evaluations can help shift often contentious debates over salvage harvesting towards a more productive dialogue around how to best adapt landscapes to future conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119680
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Jan 15 2022


  • Climate change adaptation
  • Forest landscape restoration
  • Prescribed fire
  • Resilience
  • Salvage
  • Wildfire


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