Use prescribed fire after tree planting

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two of four studies (including one replicated, randomized, controlled study) in Finland, France and the USA found that using prescribed fire after replanting increased the survival and sprouting rate of planted treesOne study found fire decreased planted tree size and one found no effect of prescribed fire on the size and survival rate of planted trees.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, controlled study in 2001-2008 in boreal forest in Finland (1

    Den Herder, Kouki & Ruusila 2009) found no effect of burning on the height or mortality of tree seedlings. Tree heights were similar in burned and unburned plots for silver birch Betula pendula (50-70 cm), rowan Sorbus aucuparia (45-50 cm) and Eurasian aspen Populus tremula (35-40 cm), as were their mortality rates (54-55%, 8-12% and 27-30% respectively). Ten seedlings of each species were planted in 2002-2003 in each of three burned and three unburned plots (10 ×15 m). The burn treatment was applied in 2001. Data were collected in 2002-2008.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 1998-2006 in temperate forest in Louisiana, USA (Haywood 2009) found that prescribed fire decreased the height and basal area of longleaf pine Pinus palustris saplings. Longleaf pine height (March burn: 7.7 m; May burn: 8.7 m; July burn: 8.6 m; control: 9.1 m) and basal area/tree (March burn: 72; May burn: 94; July burn: 92; control: 116 cm2) were lowest following a burn in March, intermediate and similar following burns in May and July and highest in control plots. Data were collected in 2006 in three plots (0.07 ha) of each treatment: a burn in March, May or July (prescribed burn in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005), and a control (untreated since 1998) treatments. Each of the 12 plots was planted with 196 longleaf pine seedlings in 1993-1994.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, controlled study in 1999-2005 in Mediterranean shrubland in California, USA (Holmes et al. 2011) found that prescribed fire increased sprouting in planted valley oak Quercus lobata saplings without affecting mortality. The number of new shoots/sapling was higher in burned plots (summer burn: 4.6; spring burn: 4.6; control: 0.8), while the mortality rate was similar between treatments (summer burn: 3%; spring burn: 4%; control: 0%). Data were collected in autumn 2005 in 8-9 blocks (72 m2) of each of: a summer burn (in 2003), a spring burn (in 2004) and control treatments, with an average of ten oak trees/block.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2005-2006 in Mediterranean Aleppo pine Pinus halepensis woodland in France (Prévosto et al. 2011) found that prescribed burning increased the survival of planted downy oak Quercus pubescens and holly oak Q. ilex seedlings. In plots with woody debris, survival of downy oak (control: <0.1; burned: 0.8 seedlings/sowing point) and holly oak (control: 1.0; burned: 2.2) was higher in burned plots. In contrast, in plots without woody debris, survival was similar between treatments for both downy oak (control: 0.0; burned: 0.2) and holly oak (control: 0.7; burned: 1.2). Grass cover was similar between treatments in plots with woody debris (control: 17%; burned: 10%) and without (control: 22%; burned: 16%). Data were collected in 2006 in 16 plots (14 × 14 m). There were four control and four burned (prescribed fire in 2005) treatment plots with woody debris scattered in the plot, and four of each treatment where the woody debris had been manually removed. All plots were thinned in 2004 (from 410 to 210 trees/ha) and in November 2006 holly oak and downy oak were planted with three acorns spaced 1 m apart at each sowing point.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Agra, H., Schowanek, S., Carmel, Y., Smith, R.K. & Ne’eman, G. (2020) Forest Conservation. Pages 323-366 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Forest Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Forest Conservation
Forest Conservation

Forest Conservation - Published 2016

Forest synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust