U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 75, October 2009


US government work.


Meadows occupy a small percentage of the western Cascade landscape. Yet they sustain an abundance of species that do not exist in adjacent forests. These biologically rich habitats have been shrinking for more than a century as a result of conifer encroachment. Charlie Halpern, at the University of Washington, and his colleagues combined retrospective and experimental research to understand the consequences of encroachment for these ecosystems, and whether, and under what conditions, it was possible to restore meadows through tree removal and prescribed burning. Their initial results indicate that meadow species are replaced by forest herbs within decades of tree establishment and that early intervention may greatly aid restoration. However, they also found that tree removal, with or without burning, benefi ts meadow species at the expense of forest herbs, suggesting strong potential for restoration where meadow species still persist.