Fire Severity Not Linked To Beetle Kill, Study Finds

Sep 30, 2014

Beetle-killed forest is easily identified by the red needles of the dead trees.

Forests affected by the bark beetle epidemic are just as capable of recovering from wildfire as unaffected forests, according to new research from the University of Wisconsin. Brian Harvey, one of the co-authors of the paper, said they looked at areas throughout the Northern Rockies in various stages of tree death.

“We really found surprisingly little effect of the bark beetle outbreaks on subsequent fire severity,” Harvey said, adding,“Our measures for fire severity are things like: of the trees alive at the time of the fire, how many were killed by the fire? How deeply charred were trees that were in those plots? How much of the ground-level vegetation was burned and charred versus survived through the fire?”

The researchers found weather and slope were much bigger factors in fire severity than whether the area was affected by beetle-kill or not.