An integrated study investigating effects of mastication fuel treatments on fuel and fire behavior.
Many land management agencies are exploring a wide variety of fuel treatments to lower fire intensities and severities and to restore ecosystems to historical conditions. One treatment that is currently gaining favor is fuel mastication, also referred to as grinding, mulching, or chipping. A variety of specially designed equipment is used to shred, flail, chip, or crush canopy fuel (seedling, sapling, and pole-sized trees) and surface fuel (fine and coarse woody material and shrubs) into smaller sizes that are deposited on the ground in a compact layer with a high bulk density. When burned, these fuelbeds are expected to support slowly spreading fires that are relatively easy to control. The goal of this study is to investigate the effects of masticating fuel on various ecosystem processes and characteristics.
Four fully integrated stages of this study are (1) describe masticated fuel characteristics by measuring fuelbed properties that are important to the prediction of fire behavior and effects, 2)develop a fuel sampling protocol that can easily quantify fuel loadings for a variety of management purposes, 3) describe the behavior of fire burning in masticated fuelbeds, 4) study the effects of both burned and unburned masticated fuelbeds on major ecosystem elements such as vegetation response, fuel consumption, soil heating, and nutrient cycling.