Mechanical mastication is a fuels treatment that shreds midstorey trees and shrubs into a compacted woody fuel layer to abate fire hazards in fire-prone ecosystems. Increased surface fuel loading from mastication may, however, lead to undesirable fire intensity, long-duration flaming or smouldering, and undesirable residual tree mortality. Two major questions facing fuels managers are: how long do masticated fuels persist, and how does the composition of masticated fuelbeds change over time? To evaluate these changes, we measured 25 masticated sites with a range of vegetation, species masticated and time since treatment (1-16 years) in the western US. Seven of the 25 sites were sampled nearly a decade earlier, providing a unique opportunity to document fuelbed changes. Woody fuel loading ranged from 12.1 to 91.9 Mg ha-1 across sites and was negatively related to time since treatment. At remeasured sites, woody fuel loads declined by 20%, with the greatest losses in 1- and 10-h woody fuels (69 and 33% reductions in mass respectively). Reductions were due to declines in number of particles and reduced specific gravity. Mastication treatments that generate greater proportions of smaller-diameter fuels may result in faster decomposition and potentially be more effective at mitigating fire hazard.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes