USFS Research: Thinning and prescribed fire treatments reduce tree mortality

This press release from October 2020 are relevant to our discussions of forest management — variable-density thinning and Rx fire — in the Sierras and perhaps elsewhere. The study was is Conservation Biology.

An overview, here, provides key findings:

Results – highlights

  • Both thinning treatments resulted in densities of >10” trees and species composition similar to what old-growth forests in this area historically contained.
  • The board foot volume removed to establish the HighV and LowV treatments averaged about 14,000 ft per acre and allowed the thinning to pay for itself. Had a 30” diameter cap been used, volume would not have differed between the two thinning strategies.
  • Prior to treatment, the study site had a high density of Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus), which are an important food source for raptors including spotted owls. While numbers caught in live traps declined in thinned units following treatment, the overall population size in the study area did not change, illustrating the potential benefits of habitat heterogeneity.
  • Thinning treatments suffered far less tree mortality during and after the 2012-2015 drought than the unthinned controls. Basal area (the cross sectional area of live tree stems) declined 23% between 2014 and 2018 in the unthinned controls, while the basal area did not change in the thinned units, with mortality balanced by tree growth.
  • Between 10-20% more snow accumulated in the thinned units compared with the unthinned controls in the 2013 and 2014 water years. Differences in snow melt out date among treatments were inconclusive, in part because both years were unusually warm and dry.
  • Many understory plant species are responding most favorably to the combination of either type of thinning plus prescribed fire. Some shrubs, including Ceanothus – an important browse for deer – show the largest increase in the HighV thinning plus prescribed fire treatment. Germination of Ceanothus seeds is stimulated by fire and the presence of gaps provides suitable high-light environments.



30 thoughts on “USFS Research: Thinning and prescribed fire treatments reduce tree mortality”

  1. Thinning reduces tree mortality? Of course not counting all the trees they directly killed by thinning, just the areas where trees naturally and normally managed themselves. This is a joke! By their twisted logic all the unmanaged characteristics of the forest are bad and all the soil drying flashy flammable brush fuels creation is good.

    And worst of all it’s a snapshot of just after they trashed more forest that’s barely even begun recovering from previous logging.. And what about the forest they did the same type of thinning studies in one, two, three or even 5 decades ago?

    Over time thinning makes a forest more vulnerable to winds, floods, fires, insects, drought and disease, but they don’t like to talk about that.

    Just another pro-industry dog and pony show of how logging is always better and zero accountability for total cumulative impacrs of logging damage that has been cause to landscape over the past century or longer.

    The bias is so obsene, yet so pervasive as “science” that no one realises how much habitat is being lost. But study after study of bird song has shown thinning makes the forest silent. And their BS claim that flying squirrels were in greater number in unthinned forest and that overcrowding in those areas made lack of flying squirriels in the logged areas ok? Kinda like how in genocide, or in this case ecocide it’s all about creating concentration camps to make sure all that awful wildlife habitat doesn’t ever try to have control of the land again. Only logging has control, it’s clearly the only way to go.

    What a bunch of cold hearted brain dead faux scientists that don’t understand forest succession/basic principles of natural sciences in forest ecology.

    • Can you show us how “forest succession” happens with so many MILLIONS of people in California forests which have been fire suppressed for many decades? When 85% of all US wildfires are human-caused, how can wildfires be ‘natural and beneficial’?

      We must keep our frame of reference in the reality of today’s forests, and not a 1491 version. We cannot go back to the 80’s, and we cannot go back to pre-European times. We only have the reality of the here and now. Do we let ‘Whatever Happens’, happen?

      • That’s the problem isn’t it Larry? Millions of people don’t want forest succession, they want the landscape to make them money and rationalize taking more and more and more all the way to scraping the bottom of the barrell. And now we’re in the end game of that.

        What happens when we get up to 600ppm of carbon in the atmosphere and we no longer have well established wetlands, grasslands and forestlands to absorb that carbon at a scale and what we do have can’t withstand droughts, disease, storms and fires? That’s when we learn about forest succession and realize the oldest trees in these young recovering stands are short-lived and are in service of slower growing more enduring understory, which is the true source of the primary future forest that takes centuries to develop once those short-live pioneering trees have prepared the soils.

        As for fire suppression and a build up of “fuels” that’s the kind of science that logging and grazing interests will always want to provide more funding for. What there’s not funding for is cumulative impacts over time.

        I used to go into the Cal fire office all the time and study the maps of all the wildfire perimeters, of all the timber harvest plans and my friend did the same with private ranching lands and grazing allotments on public land. The more you overlay these cleared out areas on a map, the more you realize that the land and its precious topsoils have been cleared and stripped clean and burned over again and again over the past 200 years.

        And the problem is a lack of specificity of the fuels type… Logging and grazing create disturbances that promote flashy fast burning fine fuels, especially invasive weeds, which quickly fill in the first decade. This is the real fire hazard, it’s the disturbance caused by logging and grazing. But all you folks live in a fantasy world that thinks the land hasn’t been cleared in 200 years even though it’s been stripped bare again and again. And if you repeat a lie long enough… all of a sudden the land is thick and overgrown and needs to be stripped and cleared off before it’s even begun to recover again.

        Truth is tens and hundreds of times of biomass per acre once existed in pre-settlement forests, prairies and wetlands and most of that biomass was well protected from fast burning fires, storms and disease because it adapted to those challenges for thousands of years and thanks to deep roots, thick bark and water retention in soils and large woody debris it was a functional living system rather than the current regime of rapid desertification that the ecosystem is never allowed to recover from. In other words the emperor wear no clothes.

        • Obviously, you are talking about private land logging practices. Did you know that in all Sierra Nevada National Forests, both clearcutting and old growth harvesting has been banned since 1993? With those limitations in force, thinning projects have not been litigated much, in those 27 years.

          You’re also assuming that USFS foresters are all right-winger, truck-drivin’ clearcutting yahoos, on a mission to kill entire forests, solely to make other people rich. Personally, I’ve always been proud of my cumulative forestry efforts, over 25 years, AND I’ve never voted for a Republican Presidential candidate. I’ve monitored and inspected loggers, always getting their best work, under the strict Timber Sale Contract. Not every forester seems able to work as well with loggers as well as myself. Sometimes they are too confrontational and stubborn to work well with some loggers. Plus, loggers have their own prejudices about “piss firs”, too.

          Most foresters don’t want all those bad things in today’s world. Forest succession doesn’t always work, even without human intervention or impact. California’s landscapes have been manipulated by humans ever since the last glaciers receded. We cannot ever go back to a pre-human landscape. We have to work smarter to retain the parts we still have. Just look at the wildfire damages. You cannot say that dead giant sequoias are a good thing. You cannot say that health problems from wildfire smoke isn’t that bad. Lastly, you cannot ignore actual forest facts. We’re losing wildlife connectivity, from these massive firestorms. It IS the inevitable result of having dry forests with too much fuel in them. The tribes knew that. We know that, too.

  2. The results of this study in terms of benefits to wildlife, increased botanical diversity/productivity and growth on residual boles as been demonstrated and known in longleaf pine and Ponderosa pine systems for decades. Despite what Deane thinks the science is sound, and I would argue the post-treatment conditions in this study probably more closely mimicked 1491 than not.

    • Classic timber industry subterfuge that lacks specificity of what type of wildlife habitat is being improved and what type of wildlife habitat is being degraded. As always, deforestation that improves habitat for generalist species like ungulates, who help to further the severity of deforestation due to a lack of predators is celebrated as a success and yet again the first stage of extirpation of flying squirrels from the thinned forest is excused entirely because they just moved to the unthinned forest and lived happily ever after from their snapshot observation, not from cumulative impacts to loss of unthinned forest across the landscape over time.

      As for mimiciking 1491, you’re clearly demonstrating your complete incompetence and ignorance when it comes to natural history of forests… The forests before the logging had trees that had been selected over the course of thousands of years by the forces of wind, fire, drought, disease and ice-snow storms and health live soil that not compacted. The original forest was made of trees that were adapted to and survived many types of disease for many centuries and they shared that resilience with their off spring bot in genetics, as well as through an internconnected root network that has been proven to share resources among trees. But all that was clear cut and the soil compacted/killed long ago.

      The area where they’re doing this BS snapshot science rather than science over time is not much different than a tree farm recovering from a clearcut and as always is not even a century of growth, less than 10% of its potential lifespan. In short the forest is a baby forest with no disease and drought resistan elder trees making the rhizosphere healthy and thriving for the next generation of tree in a multi-aged stand configuration.

      • FWIW, this study wasn’t the work of the timber industry, but “USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station research ecologists Eric Knapp and Malcolm North, research entomologist Chris Fettig, along with co-authors Alexis Bernal and Dr. Jeffrey Kane (Humboldt State University)”

          • Deane..Most of us have spent our lives dedicated to forests. We have disagreements about how things are, how they should be, and what to do. Please don’t use adjectives like “absurd” and “ill-informed.” It doesn’t help. #NotTwitter

          • Deane, if you send me your copy of Timber and the Forest Service, I’ll send you a copy of a book I edited, 193 Million Acres: Toward a Healthier and More Resilient US Forest Service, with 32 essays by different authors. I’ll read yours if you read mine.

  3. Deanne: you said “Over time thinning makes a forest more vulnerable to winds, floods, fires, insects, drought and disease, but they don’t like to talk about that.”

    Having worked on the dry side forests, I would say that my experience does not agree with yours as a global truth. For example, thinning small trees gives more water to larger trees so they grow more and are healthier. So what specific situations or research are you thinking about to make a broad claim like that?

    I’d also like to point out that daily I drive through stands that are thinned for fire mitigation but not logged in the sense of logs making it to a sawmill or even off the site. So it seems like you think thinning always means “logging” but where I live thinning is common but logging uncommon.

    • Sharon, every tree that’s removed from a forest is a loss of future options for that forest…

      When you thin a forest and compact the soil and then there’s a major high mortality event like an ice storm, there’s far fewer options for recovery, whereas an unthinned “overstocked” forest has way more options to fill in the openings in the canopy with well established trees in established fertile soil and they will grow quickly. The thinned forest on the other hand has far fewer established understory trees which leads to brushy weedy species that compete with seedling and saplings that have to try to re-establish themselves thanks to humans who degrade the future options of the forest.

      What’s more when you talk about removing young trees to allow more water for bigger older trees, you’re failing to grasp the best available science that shows an interconneced network of tree roots that works in the rhizosphere where the greatest level of forest biodiversity exist in terms of number of different kinds of fungus, bacteria and arthropods. This is a living interconnected system that better knows how to conserve and share resources than the humans who think they’re making it better by killing more trees and disrupting the interconnections with all the dead root making/stumps.

      This isn’t farming, this is a whole stand of trees that works together to shade the soil and protect it from drying out, while also producing deadwood to build up the soil in its most vulnerable places. Humans doing logging/thinning have no way to understand these complex interactions so they act like they don’t exist/don’t matter and force their own misguided short-term simpleton thinking on a forest landscape that is never given a chance to recover before it’s damaged again.

      • There is no one-size-fits-all policy. Yes, there are many pieces of land where strict preservation is the most-desired option, due to a great many possible reasons. Similarly, a forester looks at each logical parcel, deciding what might help this stand to be ‘better’. Remember, thinning projects produce far less soil compaction than old school “overstory removal”. Skidders and ‘processors’ are much lighter on the land than a D-8 Cat. Additionally, a forester can require a subsoil treatment in problem areas.

        After a prescription for treatment is written, it is implemented by timber markers, who walks through forests deciding which trees will be cut. Thinning-from-below is the most common method, in older stands. Our average cut-tree diameters were about 14.5 inches, with nothing over 30 inches being cut, except for safety.

  4. Deane.. I don’t think I fail to grasp the “best available science.”

    “shows an interconnected network of tree roots that works in the rhizosphere where the greatest level of forest biodiversity exist in terms of number of different kinds of fungus, bacteria and arthropods. This is a living interconnected system that better knows how to conserve and share resources than the humans who think they’re making it better by killing more trees and disrupting the interconnections with all the dead root making/stumps.”

    Saying that this is a connected system is true. But saying that it “knows” is not scientific. It’s an idea that forests are best left alone. That’s an idea.. it’s one held by some scientists.. but it in itself is not science.
    Mysticism and holism are fine.. I am a mystic and holist myself. But it’s a philosophy, not science.

    “Humans doing logging/thinning have no way to understand these complex interactions so they act like they don’t exist/don’t matter and force their own misguided short-term simpleton thinking on a forest landscape that is never given a chance to recover before it’s damaged again.”

    You could say that about anything.. including farming.. or grazing for grasslands. Another way of saying it is that people derive useful things from the land that enable them to eat, clothe themselves and shelter. And we’ve been doing these “short term misguided simpleton thinking” for thousands of years.

    “whereas an unthinned “overstocked” forest has way more options to fill in the openings in the canopy with well established trees in established fertile soil and they will grow quickly.”

    Having measured/been in many stands, I think it depends. Where exactly are you thinking about? What kind of forest? I’ve been in stands with almost no trees in the understory and the species requires a certain size of opening (as well as disturbed soil) to become established.

    • Sharon, please try to look outside of your limited cartesian based mindset that thinks only humans “know” and that we’re superior and nothing else “knows” like we do. Because most of what’s going on with natural living systems that brought humans to life in the first place is not something humans fully “know” and humans who act otherwise tend to do so for destructive and oppressive ends as a matter of culture not science.

      And there are many other cultures other than your planet destroying Cartesian-based one, which depends on unsustainable genocide and ecocide to sustain itself.

      And yes, I know you probably think other cultures don’t matter and are not “real science” because you philosophically “know” your culture is superior because it uses legit science.

      But how about you learn more about Gregory Cajete and Native Science and his views on the folly of objective observation and the more enlightened way of a mind that’s calibrated for right relationship with all our relations, rather than faux objectivity: This form of science is not mysticism, it’s a form of careful observation and cultivation that’s objective is to be in right relationship, rather than thinking ourselves as separate and ecosystems are just our lumber yard to build nice houses form with zero concerns for negative consequences.

      I think if you learned more about other cultures and other forms of scientific observation you would realize that it isn’t about forcing your will on a living system that you barely understand, nor is it about leaving it entirely alone. It’s about finding right relationship between those two extremes so forests and humans grow and benefit in diverse fecund relationships with each other rather than destroying forests to perpetuate a reality that’s see humans as separate and superior, which is what’s degrading all the planet’s living systems at scale in very dangerous ways.

      The Northwest Forests Plans Watershed analysis and Aquatic Conservation Strategy was designed to do this on the subwatershed scale and in an iterative way. Of course that was never implemented because maximizing profits from public and private land isn’t possible if we learn too much about how vulnerable the living systems we’re destroying really are. Heaven forbid we have to actually protect something and end up losing money?

      As humans, what we do “know” is that if you condensed the billions of years of our planet’s existence into a 24 hour period leading up till right now, humans haven’t even existed until the last seconds of the last minute of that 24 hours and what our living planet “knows” about growing living systems is a fascinating time-tested intelligent system that’s DNA-based and as humans we’ve barely even begun to make sense of what we’re destroying.

      For example, why does longleaf pine have 20 times the complexity of DNA? Of course like the proverbial person in a cave seeing shadows on the wall from a fire they’ve never seen directly, you may think it’s just a shadow and there’s no fire or a living intelligent being that’s dancing around the fire to create that shadow. Instead it’s just that the longleaf pine has lots of extra junk DNA and humans are far more superior and intelligent because we have less junk DNA… This is what’s wrong with industrial science compared to the natural sciences

      And yes, I totally agree that site specifics is everything… Every unique site has distinct needs and the more we observe it, the more we learn. But as always, the observation of this pro-timber industry paper is based on observing what we do to kill even more trees in a forest that’s been killed off before, not what the forest is doing on its own as relates to what all other forests have done for hundreds of millions of years. That’s doesn’t mean we leave the forest alone, it means we learn how we can improve things without ruining things.

      It’s as simple as the teachings of Aldo Leopold of thinking like a mountain and being aware of every living system and it’s interconnection on that mountain and how we have to find our place in nurturing that process rather than wiping it out and re-making it in our own misguided image that cares more about how much we can take for ourselves than how much we can give back to the living planet that made our existence possible.

      Think about the people you know who are always giving? Now think of the people you know who are always taking? Who spends the most time trying to justify that they’re right? And who would you rather be trapped on a deserted island with?

      In terms of my vision of practicing forestry, I’m in search of opportunities to use online remote sensing and branch pruning to prove that an overcrowded forest can grow faster and absorb and store more carbon longer, as well as have greater biodiversity from branch pruning along than thinning/logging can do. Here’s what that research work will soon look like:

      • The desire to mandate a pre-human condition for our forests, in a world with so many humans is nonsensical. I can only assume that you want less humans in the world, by any means possible, as a ‘solution’ to forest problems. It’s a useless mindset.

      • Sorry, but you lose me at “the folly of objective observation” and subordinating that to a subjective “right relationship.” (I’m afraid it reminds me of Trumpism.) But isn’t “objective observation” exactly what your on-line monitoring audience is providing?

        • Hi Jon, Please think more deeply about right relationship… Think of it more as a loving family. In the same way a mother and father raises a child and puts up with the endless challenges in a loving way rather than a cruel way is the type of relationship that Native Science is based and has been practiced for thousands of years. It replaces faux-objectivity with what I can do to be of most benefit to the future of my greater family, my greater relations…

          The Cartesian mindset on the other hand is a parent who sees progeny as a lifeless machine to be taken apart and studied “objectively” with no regard for the future beyond their short lifespan in this world. And because quantum theory has shown that our observations directly effect that which we observe, why not do our best to calibrate our minds and hearts to be as loving and kind in our observations as possible?

          If you want to understand the roots of all neurosis in the western mind’s destruction of the planet go back and read Descartes analysis of the human heart as a lifeless machine that’s been commandeered by the mind. Our modern discoveries of the role of the heart and gut in how the mind operates refutes this. Go back and read Descartes arguments that a city that grows in unique diverse ways and express the freedoms of its inhabitants over time is inferior and that clearing it all away and rebuilding the city from the orderliness of a single narcissistic human ego who forces the whole world to be re-made in its own close-minded image is superior.

          Or rather calibrating scientific instruments accurately is of little value if you don’t calibrate the heart and mind and gut instincts of the person using those instruments.

          • On the contrary, I’ve always considered my work to be ‘forest sculpting’. Creating functional and sustainable forests which also happen to be aesthetically-pleasing is a challenge. I’ve saved countless 1000’s of trees, merely by not spraying blue paint on them. Try looking at what is left, instead of what is removed.

  5. I am actually kind of scared by the type of mind set expressed by Deane. It sounds so intelligent, leaving no space for discussion. It seems people are really the problem. Maybe if we stopped feeding us we would die and go away and then everything could just be.
    I have seem many thinned forests that are green, healthy and are growing like crazy.
    I think I will go have some leftover turkey.

    • Hi Bob, it’s strange how the tables turn right? Do you think the indigenous people who lived in the americas for tens of thousands of years feel the same way about you and your status quo forest ‘management’ agenda?

      Or how about conservation-based forestry experts like Chris Maser, George Wuerthner, Reed Noss and Chad Hansen who also have the same experience with your narrow-minded destruction-based forestry practices? Don’t you think we experience you as eliminating our work from the forests in the same way that you blame us for trying to eliminate you? But nevertheless, we continue to push ahead by backing up our points with solid science and learning and adapting to change rather than close-minded status quo group think and gaslighting that resists change and reinforces what’s wrong rather than what’s right for the long term health/recovery of the world’s forests.

      It seems quite common in the responses I’m seeing here that you and others associate what you’re doing in the forests as what people normally do and a far more gentler less destructive approach that’s guided by iterative learning from the forest ecosystem itself rather than the banks is somehow anti-human and seeks to ban humans from the forest. That’s nonsense! Nothing is further from the truth…

      Whole landscapes capable of an incredible diversity of human uses awaits to be realized if the humans not living in right-relationship with biodiversity are finally stopped. The dumb near mono crop stump makers are a specific type of people we need to eliminate from the forest if we are to reverse the global deforestation-exploitation crisis of our ecosystems. Study after study has shown that even the most enlightened logging opens up a forest to all other kinds of predations and degradations over time… There’s some many unrealized flora and fauna opportunities if we finally eschew the dominant management paradigm.

      It’s the difference between being a father & mother who are saving up for the future of their children and their children’s children and constantly documenting facts and reasons for why they’re right, versus a mother & father who are drug addicts (capitalists) that spend every last penny and die early leaving nothing behind for their kids all the while justifying it again and again with momentary snapshots of how much better it feels when they get high off of killing the forest to save it . And don’t cross an addict by pointing out the long term cumulative impacts or they’ll gaslight you and fight you as if you’re against all humans, not just them.

      In a word progeny. It used to be the primary ambition of humanity before the drug addicts of capitalism dumbly claimed those trying to stop them thought, “people are really the problem.” When in truth it’s a very specific type of person that’s the problem. It’s the money-driven planet destroying people that sees greater value in how much money you can turn trees into by cutting them down rather than growing it for a future more intelligent ecological based humanity that doesn’t behave like self destructive drug addicts.

      But like most drug addicts, humans who advocate for forest thinnings and all the many other kinds of stump making in general think there is no other way. They have to get their fix, which is the anti-thesis of growing a forest for future generations to work in multi-species diversity-based approach that practices the precautionary principle at all times.

        • NEPA is a great way to work all this out… But when it comes to cumulative impacts over time what you want to do today on actual parcels of actual land will undermine that essential analysis if those per-existing impacts suggest letting the land regrow more before going in and doing more destruction.

          Or rather, the status quo mindset is that the predecessors who managed the land in the past got it wrong and did lots of damage and we need to go in their and right their wrongs by doing even more destruction because we know better now and shouldn’t be limited by the damage that was done in the past if we pretend to be fixing that.

          Everything I want for the world’s forests could be done rationally and scientifically within a NEPA-based approach if folks like yourself weren’t constantly undermining the parts of NEPA that limit the types of activities that you’re determined to do no matter how sever long term cumulative impacts.

          A couple quotes to clarify: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” –Albert Einstein.

          “Now that forest has already been raped, they say we need to go in their and rape it again to make things better. It’s a rape and pillage policy and that really {expletive} pisses me off.” –Randy Shadow,

          • I don’t think “rape” is an appropriate term to use, in fact I find it rather offensive.

            In this High Country News piece, I suggested substituting “castrate and pillage”.

            “Perhaps even worse than talking about “virgin forests” is describing some human activities in forests as “rape.” The key difference between the sacred act of union and the crime of rape is mutual consent. At this point in human and forest development, we cannot ask the forests permission and hear them say, “No.” Using the term inappropriately demeans the word itself, which should remain powerful and specific about a brutal violation. But here’s a suggestion: How about substituting the word “castration” for rape? This is how that might sound: “This timber sale will continue the Forest Service’s castrate-and-run policies.”

            Making this substitution is a simple yet compelling way to help improve the clarity of thinking in the world. I’ve found that when I suggest this replacement to people, it always makes it easier for them to stop using any sexual terms in these kinds of discussions — at least, they stop it when I’m present.”

            Of the folks you’ve mentioned “Or how about conservation-based forestry experts like “Chris Maser, George Wuerthner, Reed Noss and Chad Hansen” I would not call them any more “forestry experts” than the rest of us here at TSW.

            I don’t think it’s really about expertise, it’s about worldview . And that’s totally OK.

            As to “undermining” NEPA, I don’t think anyone on the TSW has the ability to do that.

          • I’ve worked on 25 National Forests in 11 States. You should go and look at finished projects, 3 years after completion, to see the longer term damages. Quantifying damages leads to better practices. If your view is that ANY project, which produces a product, is bad, and shouldn’t be done, then we can just disagree and move on to more pressing needs.

  6. Deane

    Some good thoughts but the “Devil is always in the details”.

    First, let’s note that all of this is just wasted time and useless ranting unless you can lay out a path out of all political and socio-economic systems. Said systems being driven by the thirst to satisfy the desires of the moment and fear of not having enough to survive on for the long term which can be summed up as the “nature of mankind”. This “natural” process is usually pursued as a result of some combination of self importance, egotism, a sense that nobody else is as wise, greed, thirst for power, killing off competing “tribes” and etc. All of which in turn can be described as “climbing the ladder of success as fast as you can regardless of how many you have to step on”.

    Pretend that you have absolute power over the earth. How about giving us a step by step “Action Plan” that would solve your concerns. Would it include “natural” population control by eliminating the use of all medicines?

    It would seem to me that the “natural way” can’t be imposed on Forests or anything else unless it is also imposed on the currently dominant species that we call “mankind”.

    In a world of limited resources it would seem that mankind is the “ROOT CAUSE” of your concerns and i’m afraid nothing is going to change that except, maybe, the next major extinction event.

  7. I just have some comments on the Knapp et al 2020 paper:

    It looks like they did not count the trees removed during thinning in their mortality numbers. Thinning removed 75% of trees and >40% basal area. Controlled burns killed 10% in control; 4% in treatments. Mortality after 4 years was given as 10.6% in thinned areas and 34% in the control area; basal area change was -0.2% in thinned areas and -23.4% in the control. But if the logging is included as mortality, these numbers are about 78% mortality and -40% basal area for thinned areas and 34% mortality and -23.4% basal area for the control, leading to the conclusion that the control area had overall lower mortality and less loss of basal area. In addition, a large proportion of trees killed in the control area were white firs, one of the main encroachers that they were trying to reduce. Am I missing something here?

    A couple other comments: The large departure from “historic conditions” in tree density and species (encroachment by white fir and incense cedar) was blamed on fire suppression, even though they stated “ >80% of large trees were logged off around 1929”. It appears that logging may have had a great, but unacknowledged, effect on the perceived change from historic to current conditions.

    One conclusion was that there were no significant differences in mortality or basal area between high variable and low variable thinning, which argues for doing less low variable thinning that causes more ecological damage.

  8. I second the motion, that the authors should have disclosed whether the mortality from logging was less than or greater than the mortality from natural processes.

    • Then how do you factor in the idea that the logged mortality is ‘better’ mortality, since it was selected to be taken out, for good silvicultural reasons? As always, you only look at a narrow part of a project, to find minor faults.


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