The efficacy of salvage logging in reducing subsequent fire severity in conifer-dominated forests of Minnesota, USA
Although primarily used to mitigate economic losses following disturbance, salvage logging has also been justified on the basis of reducing fire risk and fire severity; however, its ability to achieve these secondary objectives remains unclear. The patchiness resulting from a sequence of recent disturbances-blowdown, salvage logging, and wildfire-provided an excellent opportunity to assess the impacts of blowdown and salvage logging on wildfire severity. We used two fire-severity assessments (tree-crown and forest-floor characteristics) to compare post-wildfire conditions among three treatment combinations (Blowdown-Salvage-Fire, Blowdown-Fire, and Fire only). Our results suggest that salvage logging reduced the intensity (heat released) of the subsequent fire. However, its effect on severity (impact to the system) differed between the tree crowns and forest floor: tree-crown indices suggest that salvage logging decreased fire severity (albeit with modest statistical support), while forest-floor indices suggest that salvage logging increased fire severity. We attribute the latter finding to the greater exposure of mineral soil caused by logging operations; once exposed, soils are more likely to register the damaging effects of fire, even if fire intensity is not extreme. These results highlight the important distinction between fire intensity and severity when formulating post-disturbance management prescriptions.