FireSmart Vegetation Management Decision Support Research
Wildfire 9367 2021
PROJECT NUMBER: 301012718
Technical Report TR2021N15
In Alberta there is a large portion of the land covered by stands composed of highly flammable species such as black spruce and other conifers. The reduction of standing fuel has been implemented to reduce the intensity of wildfires that burn through these stands. This is done through thinning, mulching, and pruning of the trees to reduce and redistribute the fuel to other strata, such as the surface of the forest. Treatments like this need maintenance to keep them in a state of reduced fire intensity, therefore a beneficial alternative would be to convert the stand into a less flammable state while still maintaining valuable ecosystem services.
Stand conversion to deciduous tree species such as aspen and larch is being explored as an addition to traditional fuel treatments. These trees are thought to be less flammable than conifers that are found in similar ecosystems. A project to convert pine to aspen in areas that are overgrown has been completed west of the town of Nordegg, AB. The purpose is to break up the continuous fuel landscape with converted areas that are near towns and cities. These should reduce fire intensity and allow operations to action areas of the fire that may be unsuccessful otherwise.
Black spruce is prone to burning and has adapted to grow in environments that experience frequent wildfires. The species is highly volatile due to moisture contents and chemical characteristics of its needles. The conversion from a black spruce dominated stand to that dominated by larch tamarack would preserve the visual aspects around communities while having the benefits of reducing wildfire intensity in critical areas of the wildland urban interface. Larch is thought to be much less flammable than black spruce, however it is unclear if larch would be successful at growing in treated stands, specifically those that have been mulched, thinned, or untreated.
This project is a part of the FireSmart Vegetation Management Decision Support Research initiative.