Fuel managed (treated) stand
Untreated natural stand
A recent review paper summarizes the scientific basis for stand-level fuel reduction treatments in boreal conifer forests (Beverly et al. 2020).
Topography, weather and fuel conditions dictate how wildfires behave. Of these three factors, only fuel is compatible with early action to change how fires will burn before they even start. Forest biomass (fuel) can be removed through prescribed burning or mechanical thinning and limbing. This type of fuel management is a growing practice and is often conducted adjacent to high valued areas, like communities. Fuel treatments aim to reduce the potential intensity of a wildfire, should it spread into the area at some point in the future.
The impact that a fuel treatment will actually have is difficult to predict. That's because existing models used in Canada to predict fire behaviour are based on generalized representations of natural stands. The new fuel types created by fuel treatments are not represented in existing predictive models.
The team is using a range of different approaches to explore the relationship between stand structure and potential fire behaviour. Through the Canadian Partnership for Wildland Fire Science and in collaboration with Alberta Wildfire, they're working with data collected from the Alberta Wildland Fuels Inventory Program (AWFIP). They're investigating new methods for quantifying wildland fire fuels to relate stand structural attributes to fire behaviour.