The ICO method is a stand-level tool to restore the mosaic patterns of individual trees, clumps, and openings commonly found in pine and mixed conifer forests that have intact, frequent-fire regimes, as well as other forest types.
Many managers and stakeholders across the west have an intuitive understanding that frequent-fire forests were not uniformly spaced, and that “clumpy-gappy” patterns played an important functional role. Variable spatial patterns affect a variety of functions such as fire behavior, understory plant diversity, tree regeneration, insect spread, nutrient cycling, and snow retention. Scientifically, there is a broad consensus that to increase resilience, treatments should seek to restore the range of patterns found in forests with intact disturbance regimes.
The ICO approach originated to address the challenge of translating the general goal of a “clumpy- gappy” pattern into marking guidelines. A number of other similar methods have been developed across the west; the ICO method is another tool in the toolbox.