25854 – Fire History of Whitebark Pine Forests Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks

Investigator’s Annual Reports (IAR’s) for Crater Lake National Park

Fire History of Whitebark Pine Forests Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks


Report Number: 25854

Permit Number: CRLA-2003-SCI-0001

Current Status: Checked in

Date Received: Jan 14, 2004

Reporting Year: 2004

Principal Investigator: Dr Michael Murray, Crater Lake, OR

Park-assigned Study Id. #: CRLA-03014

Permit Expiration Date: May 20, 2005

Permit Start Date: May 20, 2003

Study Starting Date: May 20, 2003

Study Ending Date: May 20, 2005

Study Status: Continuing

Activity Type: Research

Subject/Discipline: Fire (Behavior, Ecology, Effects)

Objectives: The Cascade Range features prominent timberline forests which are valued by tourists, recreationists, and wildlife. These ecosystems are characterized by whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). This tree is considered a keystone species in several forest communities because of its influence on wildlife, flora, and ecological processes (Tomback and others 2001). Whitebark pine is also known to be fire dependent based on studies in other regions where it is declining largely due to decades of suppression and an introduced disease ? blister rust. However, knowledge of fire regimes in the markedly different Cascadian whitebark pine forests is absent. No published fire studies of these forests exist. This proposal pertains to two objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of fire regimes associated with whitebark pine forests in the Cascade Range.
  2. Describe historic and current stand conditions and estimate potential ecological effects of fire exclusion policies.

Understanding of fire regimes and current conditions is the first step towards re-introducing fire. Currently, managers cannot confidently determine if management-ignited fire is warranted because knowledge of forest conditions and historical fire regimes is lacking. Re-introducing fire may risk accelerating the decline of whitebark pine in the region. It is imperative that managers possess knowledge of historic and predicted fire characteristics for these forests in order to prescribe fire. It is the goal of this project to take a comprehensive step in filling this information gap for the Cascades, thus providing an important and essential baseline resource for fire planning in the region.