Nevada Dividends!

Effects of Management Practices on Eastern Sierran Pine Forest


Issue:

A prominent forest type in the eastern Sierra Nevada is that of Jeffrey pine, and at mid and low elevations where soils are typically dry during the growing season, these pine forests dominate. Because of extensive harvesting during the Comstock era, coupled with fire exclusion during the 20th century, many Jeffrey pine stands today are of poor quality with large numbers of small stems, little spacing between trees, and high canopy closure.

Thinning removing weak stems so that desirable trees have greater access to water and nutrients, wildfire mitigation, increased water yield, and enhanced wildlife habitat. Also, because this practice produces commercial wood fiber and/or biomass suitable as an alternative energy feedstock, a monetary return on the investment can be realized that offsets implementation costs.

Approaches to forest thinnings have improved substantially in recent years, affording such choices as cut-to-length systems and whole-tree harvesting. Prescribed fire in the form of controlled under-burning may, with the exception of the fiber and biomass yield, provide many of the same benefits as thinning. Prior to widespread use of either of these practices in the eastern Sierra Nevada, however, an assessment of their long-term impacts on stand health and productivity, nutrient cycling, and water quality is required to optimize their use for maximum benefit.

What has been done?

This project is the continuation of a long-term study that began in 2003 with the initial treatments of thinning, mastication, and prescribed burns. Data was collected post-treatment in 2004 on fuel loads, forest health, soil nutrients, and runoff water quality. Over the past year, the same data was collected to determine the effects of these management practices.

Impact:

Information gathered over the past decade on the management practices in eastern Sierran pine forest has led to seven scientific publications in 2014. This set of data is the only fuel numbers available for the entire Sierra Nevada Mountains. Now available to the public, forest recovery data is being used by the USFS for environmental assessments and environmental impact statement reports. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Nevada Division of Forestry are using the data for projected fuel loads.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Roger Walker

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science

1664 North Virginia Street

Reno, Nevada   89557

 

Phone: (775) 784-4039

Email: walker@cabnr.unr.edu

Personal Web Site: