U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Ambio Vol. 37, No. 7–8, December 2008


Forest fragmentation affects the heterogeneity of accumulated fuels by increasing the diversity of forest types and by increasing forest edges. This heterogeneity has implications in how we manage fuels, fire, and forests. Understanding the relative importance of fragmentation on woody biomass within a single climatic regime, and along climatic gradients, will improve our ability to manage forest fuels and predict fire behavior. In this study we assessed forest fuel characteristics in stands of differing moisture, i.e., dry and moist forests, structure, i.e., open canopy (typically younger) vs. closed canopy (typically older) stands, and size, i.e., small (10–14 ha), medium (33 to 60 ha), and large (100–240 ha) along a climatic gradient of boreal, temperate, and tropical forests. We measured duff, litter, fine and coarse woody debris, standing dead, and live biomass in a series of plots along a transect from outside the forest edge to the fragment interior. The goal was to determine how forest structure and fuel characteristics varied along this transect and whether this variation differed with temperature, moisture, structure, and fragment size. We found nonlinear relationships of coarse woody debris, fine woody debris, standing dead and live tree biomass with mean annual median temperature. Biomass for these variables was greatest in temperate sites. Forest floor fuels (duff and litter) had a linear relationship with temperature and biomass was greatest in boreal sites. In a five-way multivariate analysis of variance we found that temperature, moisture, and age/structure had significant effects on forest floor fuels, downed woody debris, and live tree biomass. Fragment size had an effect on forest floor fuels and live tree biomass. Distance from forest edge had significant effects for only a few subgroups sampled. With some exceptions edges were not distinguishable from interiors in terms of fuels.