U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 100, March 2010


US government work.


Sophisticated in composition but small in scale, a riparian area is a fertile ecosystem of various plant and animal species that occurs along watercourses or water bodies. In the Applegate River sub-basin of southwestern Oregon, there is little understanding on how prescribed fi re may affect these areas. According to several studies, fire was historically an important component in some western riparian areas of both intermittent and perennial streams, burning at the same frequency and intensity as the associated upland areas. Due to a lack of supportive documentation and locally-pertinent data and the perception that the complex ecosystems may be compromised by thinning and burning, Medford District Bureau of Land Management land managers have avoided performing extensive fuel treatments in riparian areas. As a result, it was the goal of researchers to address the information gaps and to study how fuel treatments affect fire behavior, vegetation, water, life, and overall diversity within the riparian area. By using a before-and-after approach and comparing riparian zones buffered from typical fuel treatments to those unbuffered from treatments, researchers were able to determine the effects and effectiveness of fuel treatments in riparian areas as well as to provide land managers with information and guidance necessary to inform future decisions.