Five-year post-restoration conditions and simulated climate-change trajectories in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest, southwestern Colorado, USA

M. T. Stoddard, Andrew J Sanchez Meador, Peter Z Fule, Julie E. Korb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Some warm/dry mixed-conifer forests are at increasing risk of uncharacteristically large, high-severity fires. As a result, managers have begun ecological restoration efforts using treatments such as mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. Empirical information on the long-term impacts of these treatments is limited, especially in light of potential climate change. We assessed changes in forest structure and composition five-years following three alternative restoration treatments in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest: (1) thin/burn, (2) prescribe burn, and (3) control. We used the Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) model to quantify potential forest trajectories under alternative climate scenarios. Five years following treatments, changes in forest structure were similar to initial post-treatment conditions, with thin/burn being the only treatment to shift and maintain forest structure and composition within historical reference conditions. By 2013, the thin/burn had reduced basal area (11.3m2ha-1) and tree density (117.2treeha-1) by 56% and 79% respectively, compared to pre-treatment values. In the burn, basal area (20.5m2ha-1) and tree density (316.6treeha-1) was reduced by 20% and 35% respectively, from 2002 to 2013. Mortality of large ponderosa pine trees (the most fire-resistant species) throughout the duration of the experiment, averaged 6% in the burn compared to 16% in the thin/burn treatment. Changes five years following treatments were largely due to increases in sprouting species. Shrub and sapling densities were approximately two to three times higher (respectively) in the thin/burn compared to burn and control and dominated by sprouting oak and aspen. Under climate simulations, the thin/burn was more resilient in maintaining forest conditions compared to burn and control which approached meager forest conditions (3-4m2ha-1). These results indicate that restoration treatment that include both thinning and burning can maintain forest integrity over the next few decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-261
Number of pages9
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume356
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Fingerprint

mixed forests
coniferous forests
trajectories
coniferous tree
trajectory
climate change
sprouting
climate
thinning (plants)
basal area
thinning
fire severity
restoration
ecological restoration
Pinus ponderosa
prescribed burning
saplings
sapling
Quercus
managers

Keywords

  • Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator
  • Ecological restoration
  • Historical reference conditions
  • Prescribed fire
  • Thinning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

Cite this

@article{082a2395298e4a79863905760321fd83,
title = "Five-year post-restoration conditions and simulated climate-change trajectories in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest, southwestern Colorado, USA",
abstract = "Some warm/dry mixed-conifer forests are at increasing risk of uncharacteristically large, high-severity fires. As a result, managers have begun ecological restoration efforts using treatments such as mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. Empirical information on the long-term impacts of these treatments is limited, especially in light of potential climate change. We assessed changes in forest structure and composition five-years following three alternative restoration treatments in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest: (1) thin/burn, (2) prescribe burn, and (3) control. We used the Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) model to quantify potential forest trajectories under alternative climate scenarios. Five years following treatments, changes in forest structure were similar to initial post-treatment conditions, with thin/burn being the only treatment to shift and maintain forest structure and composition within historical reference conditions. By 2013, the thin/burn had reduced basal area (11.3m2ha-1) and tree density (117.2treeha-1) by 56{\%} and 79{\%} respectively, compared to pre-treatment values. In the burn, basal area (20.5m2ha-1) and tree density (316.6treeha-1) was reduced by 20{\%} and 35{\%} respectively, from 2002 to 2013. Mortality of large ponderosa pine trees (the most fire-resistant species) throughout the duration of the experiment, averaged 6{\%} in the burn compared to 16{\%} in the thin/burn treatment. Changes five years following treatments were largely due to increases in sprouting species. Shrub and sapling densities were approximately two to three times higher (respectively) in the thin/burn compared to burn and control and dominated by sprouting oak and aspen. Under climate simulations, the thin/burn was more resilient in maintaining forest conditions compared to burn and control which approached meager forest conditions (3-4m2ha-1). These results indicate that restoration treatment that include both thinning and burning can maintain forest integrity over the next few decades.",
keywords = "Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator, Ecological restoration, Historical reference conditions, Prescribed fire, Thinning",
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T1 - Five-year post-restoration conditions and simulated climate-change trajectories in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest, southwestern Colorado, USA

AU - Stoddard, M. T.

AU - Sanchez Meador, Andrew J

AU - Fule, Peter Z

AU - Korb, Julie E.

PY - 2015/4/1

Y1 - 2015/4/1

N2 - Some warm/dry mixed-conifer forests are at increasing risk of uncharacteristically large, high-severity fires. As a result, managers have begun ecological restoration efforts using treatments such as mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. Empirical information on the long-term impacts of these treatments is limited, especially in light of potential climate change. We assessed changes in forest structure and composition five-years following three alternative restoration treatments in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest: (1) thin/burn, (2) prescribe burn, and (3) control. We used the Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) model to quantify potential forest trajectories under alternative climate scenarios. Five years following treatments, changes in forest structure were similar to initial post-treatment conditions, with thin/burn being the only treatment to shift and maintain forest structure and composition within historical reference conditions. By 2013, the thin/burn had reduced basal area (11.3m2ha-1) and tree density (117.2treeha-1) by 56% and 79% respectively, compared to pre-treatment values. In the burn, basal area (20.5m2ha-1) and tree density (316.6treeha-1) was reduced by 20% and 35% respectively, from 2002 to 2013. Mortality of large ponderosa pine trees (the most fire-resistant species) throughout the duration of the experiment, averaged 6% in the burn compared to 16% in the thin/burn treatment. Changes five years following treatments were largely due to increases in sprouting species. Shrub and sapling densities were approximately two to three times higher (respectively) in the thin/burn compared to burn and control and dominated by sprouting oak and aspen. Under climate simulations, the thin/burn was more resilient in maintaining forest conditions compared to burn and control which approached meager forest conditions (3-4m2ha-1). These results indicate that restoration treatment that include both thinning and burning can maintain forest integrity over the next few decades.

AB - Some warm/dry mixed-conifer forests are at increasing risk of uncharacteristically large, high-severity fires. As a result, managers have begun ecological restoration efforts using treatments such as mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. Empirical information on the long-term impacts of these treatments is limited, especially in light of potential climate change. We assessed changes in forest structure and composition five-years following three alternative restoration treatments in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest: (1) thin/burn, (2) prescribe burn, and (3) control. We used the Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) model to quantify potential forest trajectories under alternative climate scenarios. Five years following treatments, changes in forest structure were similar to initial post-treatment conditions, with thin/burn being the only treatment to shift and maintain forest structure and composition within historical reference conditions. By 2013, the thin/burn had reduced basal area (11.3m2ha-1) and tree density (117.2treeha-1) by 56% and 79% respectively, compared to pre-treatment values. In the burn, basal area (20.5m2ha-1) and tree density (316.6treeha-1) was reduced by 20% and 35% respectively, from 2002 to 2013. Mortality of large ponderosa pine trees (the most fire-resistant species) throughout the duration of the experiment, averaged 6% in the burn compared to 16% in the thin/burn treatment. Changes five years following treatments were largely due to increases in sprouting species. Shrub and sapling densities were approximately two to three times higher (respectively) in the thin/burn compared to burn and control and dominated by sprouting oak and aspen. Under climate simulations, the thin/burn was more resilient in maintaining forest conditions compared to burn and control which approached meager forest conditions (3-4m2ha-1). These results indicate that restoration treatment that include both thinning and burning can maintain forest integrity over the next few decades.

KW - Climate-Forest Vegetation Simulator

KW - Ecological restoration

KW - Historical reference conditions

KW - Prescribed fire

KW - Thinning

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