Ecosystem management applications of resource objective wildfires in forests of the Grand Canyon National Park, USA

Michael T. Stoddard, Peter Z. Fulé, David W. Huffman, Andrew J. Sánchez Meador, John Paul Roccaforte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Forest managers of the western United States are increasingly interested in utilising naturally ignited wildfires to achieve management objectives. Wildfires can accomplish a range of objectives, from maintenance of intact ecological conditions, to ecosystem restoration, to playing vital natural disturbance roles; however, few studies have carefully evaluated long-term effectiveness and outcomes of wildfire applications across multiple forest types. We remeasured monitoring plots more than 10 years after 'resource objective' (RO) fires were allowed to burn in three main south-western forest types. Results showed minimal effects and effective maintenance of open conditions in an intact pine-oak site. Higher-severity fire and delayed mortality of larger and older trees contributed to reductions in basal area and canopy cover at the mixed-conifer and spruce-fir sites. Species dominance shifted towards ponderosa pine in both the mixed-conifer and spruce-fir sites. Although fires resulted in 46-68% mortality of smaller trees initially, substantial ingrowth brought tree density to near pre-fire levels in all forest types after 12 years. Overall, the 2003 RO fires were broadly successful at maintaining or creating open and heterogeneous conditions and resulted in fire-and drought-tolerant species composition. These conditions are likely to be resilient to changing climate, at least in the short term. Substantial mortality of large trees and continuing loss of basal area, however, are a concern, given further climate warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-200
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

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Keywords

  • ecosystem restoration
  • fine-scale variability
  • landscape patterns
  • maintenance fire
  • overstorey structure
  • tree regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology

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