Encyclopedia of Wildfires and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires

Living Edition
| Editors: Samuel L. Manzello

Natural Fuels

  • Robert E. KeaneEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51727-8_259-1



Wildland fuels created by natural ecological processes and not directly altered or modified by human activities.


Wildland fuelbeds are diverse collections of biomass categorized specifically to compute fire behavior and effects. When wildland fuelbeds are created by solely “natural” processes, fire scientists, and managers often refer to these as natural fuels (Fig.  1). NWCG ( 2018) defines natural fuels as fuels resulting from natural processes and not directly generated or altered by land management practices. However, when humans have a direct impact of fuelbed conditions, such as after timber harvest activities, forest thinnings, and fuel treatments, these are called activity fuels (Fig.  2) – please see the contribution on activity fuels. This is one of the many dichotomies that wildland fuel specialists use to describe the subtle differences across fuelbeds.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bachelet D, Neilson RP, Hickler T, Drapek RJ, Lenihan JM, Sykes MT, Smith B, Sitch S, Thonicke K (2003) Simulating past and future dynamics of natural ecosystems in the United States. Global Biochem Cycle 17:1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennett WD (1960) The reduction of the forest fire hazard created by logging slash: a literature review. In: Woodlands research index No. 117, Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, Montreal, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  3. Brennan TJ, Keeley JE (2015) Effect of mastication and other mechanical treatments on fuel structure in chaparral. Int J Wildland Fire 24:949–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown JK (1985) The “unnatural fuel buildup” issue. In: Symposium and workshop on wilderness fire. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Missoula, pp 127–128Google Scholar
  5. Carlton DW, Pickford SG (1982) Fuelbed changes with aging of slash from ponderosa pine thinnings. J Forestry 80(2):91–101Google Scholar
  6. Finch DM, Ganey JL, Wong W, Kimball RT, Sallabanks R (1997) Effects and interactions of fire, logging and grazing. General Technical Report RM-GTR-292, USDA Forest ServiceGoogle Scholar
  7. Fulé PZ, Waltz AEM, Covington WW, Heinlein TA (2001) Measuring forest restoration effectiveness in reducing hazardous fuels. J Forestry 99:24–29Google Scholar
  8. Halbrook J, Han H-S, Graham RT, Jain TB, Denner R (2006) Mastication: a fuel reduction and site preparation alternative. In: Chung, W.; Han, H. S., eds. Proceedings of the 29th Council on Forest Engineering Conference. Coeur d''Alene, ID. pp. 137–146Google Scholar
  9. Hartnett DC, Hickman KR, Walter Fischer LE (1996) Effects of bison grazing, fire, and topography on floristic diversity in tallgrass prairie. J Range Manag 49:413–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jain T, Sikkink P, Keefe R, Byrne J (2018) In: F. S. U.S Department of Agriculture (ed) To masticate or not: Useful tips for treating forest, woodland, and shrubland vegetation. Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, p 55Google Scholar
  11. Kane JM, Varner JM, Knapp EE (2009) Novel fuel characteristics associated with mechanical mastication treatments in northern California and south-western Oregon, USA. Int J Wildland Fire 18:686–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Keane RE (2008a) Biophysical controls on surface fuel litterfall and decomposition in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA. Can J For Res 38:1431–1445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Keane RE (2008b) Surface fuel litterfall and decomposition in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA, Research Paper RMRS-RP-70. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort CollinsCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Keane RE (2015) Wildland fuel fundamentals and applications. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Keane R (2016) Spatiotemporal variability of wildland fuels in US Northern rocky mountain forests. Forests 7:129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Keane RE, Ryan KC, Finney M (1998) Simulating the consequences of altered fire regimes on a complex landscape in Glacier National Park, USA. In: Tall timbers fire ecology conference, vol 20. Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, pp 310–324Google Scholar
  17. Keane RE, Thomas Veblen KC, Ryan JL, Allen C, Hawkes B (2002) The cascading effects of fire exclusion in the Rocky Mountains. In: Baron J (ed) Rocky mountain futures: an ecological perspective. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 133–153Google Scholar
  18. Keane RE, Mahalovich MF, Bollenbacher BL, Manning ME, Loehman RA, Jain TB, Holsinger LM, Larson AJ (2018a) Effects of climate change on forest vegetation in the northern rockies. In: Halofsky JE, Peterson DL (eds) Climate change and rocky mountain ecosystems. Springer, Cham, pp 59–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Keane RE, Sikkink PG, Jain T (2018b) In: U. F. Service (ed) Physical and chemical characteristics of surface fuels in masticated mixed-conifer stands of the US Rocky Mountains. US forest service rocky mountain research station, Fort Collins, p 123Google Scholar
  20. Koski WH, Fischer WC (1979) Photo series for appraising thinning slash in north Idaho. General Technical Report INT-46, USDA Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UTGoogle Scholar
  21. Matson E, Bart D (2013) Interactions among fire legacies, grazing and topography predict shrub encroachment in post-agricultural páramo. Landsc Ecol 28:1829–1840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. NWCG (2018) Glossary of wildland fire. PMS #205. https://www.nwcg.gov/glossary/a-z Accessed 15 Oct 2019Google Scholar
  23. Ottmar RD (2019) Activity fuels. In: Manzello SL (ed) Encyclopedia of wildfires and wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires. Springer, Cham, pp 1–5Google Scholar
  24. Paletto A, Ferretti F, De Meo I, Cantiani P, Focacci M (2012) Ecological and environmental role of deadwood in managed and unmanaged forests. Sustainable forest management-current research. IntechOpenGoogle Scholar
  25. Sohn JA, Saha S, Bauhus J (2016) Potential of forest thinning to mitigate drought stress: a meta-analysis. For Ecol Manag 380:261–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wenger KF (1984) Forestry handbook, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Young KR, Roundy BA, Bunting SC, Eggett DL (2015) Utah juniper and two-needle piñon reduction alters fuel loads. Int J Wildland Fire 24:236–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA Forest ServiceRocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences LaboratoryMissoulaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sara McAllister
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA Forest ServiceRMRS Missoula Fire Sciences LaboratoryMissoulaUSA