Effectiveness of fuel treatments at the landscape scale: State of understanding and key research gaps

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Maximizing the effectiveness of fuel treatments at the landscape scale is a key research and management need given the inability to treat all areas at risk from wildfire, and there is a growing body of scientific literature assessing this need. We synthesized existing scientific literature on landscape-scale fuel treatment effectiveness in North American ecosystems through a systematic literature review. We identified 127 studies that addressed this topic using one of three approaches: simulation modeling, empirical analysis, or case studies. Of these 127 studies, most focused on forested landscapes of the western United States. Together, they generally provided evidence that fuel treatments reduced negative outcomes of wildfire and in some cases promoted beneficial wildfire outcomes, although these effects diminished over time following treatment and were influenced by factors such as weather conditions at the time of fire. The simulation studies showed that fuel treatment extent, size, placement, timing, and prescription influenced the degree of effectiveness.

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