By Jonathan R. Thompson et al
The 2002 Biscuit Fire burned at mixed-severities encompassing over 200,000 ha of publicly owned forest- land, including more than 8300 ha of conifer plantations. We used pre- and post-fire digital aerial photography to examine how the level of canopy damage varied within these plantations in relation to topography, weather, vegetation-cover, and management history, with an emphasis on the age of the plantation. We examined 198 plantations that varied widely in age (5–47 years), size (1.25–47 ha), and landscape context. The average level of canopy damage within the plantations was 77%. Based on Ran- dom Forest variable importance values, plantation age was the best predictor of canopy damage. Average annual precipitation, elevation and topographic position were ranked second, third, and fourth, respec- tively. A model selection procedure, using geo-statistical regression models and Akaike’s information criterion, corroborated the importance of plantation age relative to the other predictors tested and also suggested that the influence of age varied over time. The top ranked regression model indicated that the level of canopy damage reached its maximum around age 15 and stayed relatively high until age 25 before declining.