Southwestern ponderosa pine forest patterns following wildland fires managed for resource benefit differ from reference landscapes

Jonathon J. Donager, Andrew J. Sánchez Meador, David W. Huffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context: Managers aiming to utilize wildland fire to restore southwestern ponderosa pine landscapes require better understanding of forest cover patterns produced at multiple scales. Restoration effectiveness of wildland fires managed for resource benefit can be evaluated against natural ranges of variation. Objectives: We describe landscape patterns within reference landscapes, including restored and functioning ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona, and compare them to wildland fires managed for resource benefit. We make comparisons along a gradient of extents and assess the effects of scale on landscape differences. Methods: Using Sentinel-2 imagery, we classified ponderosa pine forest cover and calculated landscape metrics across a gradient of landscape extent within reference and managed landscapes. We used non-parametric tests to assess differences. We used random forest models to assess and explore which landscape metrics were most importance in differentiating landscape patterns. Results: Restored forests exhibited landscapes patterns consistent with those of ecologically intact forest landscapes. Managed wildfire landscape patterns differed significantly when compared to reference landscape patterns among nearly all landscape metrics considered and became increasingly different with increasing landscape extent (15–840 ha), tending towards both denser and larger patch areas. Conclusions: Landscape patterns from wildland fires managed for resource benefit we examined differ from those of reference landscapes. Differences become more pronounced with increasing landscape size. Landscape patterns among large managed forest landscapes suggest that the predominately single-entry, low-severity disturbance regime from these managed fires is failing to reduce tree densities and break up large contiguous areas of canopy cover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLandscape Ecology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Fire-adapted forest management
  • Forest structure
  • Frequent-fire forests
  • Random forest classification
  • Resource management
  • Scale relationships
  • Sentinel-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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