Understory vegetation response after 30 years of interval prescribed burning in two ponderosa pine sites in northern Arizona, USA

Catherine A. Scudieri, Carolyn Hull Sieg, Sally M. Haase, Andrea E Thode, Stephen S. Sackett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Southwestern USA ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson var. scopulorum Engelm.) forests evolved with frequent surface fires and have changed dramatically over the last century. Overstory tree density has sharply increased while abundance of understory vegetation has declined primarily due to the near cessation of fires. We examined effects of varying prescribed fire-return intervals (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 years, plus unburned) on the abundance and composition of understory vegetation in 2007 and 2008 after 30+ years of fall prescribed burning at two ponderosa pine sites. We found that after 30 years, overstory canopy cover remained high, while understory plant canopy cover was low, averaging <12% on all burn intervals. We attributed the weak understory response to a few factors - the most important of which was the high overstory cover at both sites. Graminoid cover and cover of the major grass species, Elymus elymoides (squirreltail), increased on shorter fire-return intervals compared to unburned plots, but only at one site. Community composition differed significantly between shorter fire-return intervals and unburned plots at one site, but not the other. For several response variables, precipitation levels appeared to have a stronger effect than treatments. Our findings suggest that low-severity burn treatments in southwestern ponderosa pine forests, especially those that do not decrease overstory cover, are minimally effective in increasing understory plant cover. Thinning of these dense forests along with prescribed burning is necessary to increase cover of understory vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2134-2142
Number of pages9
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume260
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

prescribed burning
Pinus ponderosa
understory
overstory
vegetation
Elymus elymoides
canopy
ground cover plants
thinning (plants)
coniferous forests
community composition
thinning
grass
grasses

Keywords

  • Fire frequency
  • Long-term study
  • Time-since-fire
  • Understory response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Cite this

Understory vegetation response after 30 years of interval prescribed burning in two ponderosa pine sites in northern Arizona, USA. / Scudieri, Catherine A.; Sieg, Carolyn Hull; Haase, Sally M.; Thode, Andrea E; Sackett, Stephen S.

In: Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 260, No. 12, 15.12.2010, p. 2134-2142.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Scudieri, Catherine A. ; Sieg, Carolyn Hull ; Haase, Sally M. ; Thode, Andrea E ; Sackett, Stephen S. / Understory vegetation response after 30 years of interval prescribed burning in two ponderosa pine sites in northern Arizona, USA. In: Forest Ecology and Management. 2010 ; Vol. 260, No. 12. pp. 2134-2142.
@article{822b1331186b44c9bb0dcf599b94986f,
title = "Understory vegetation response after 30 years of interval prescribed burning in two ponderosa pine sites in northern Arizona, USA",
abstract = "Southwestern USA ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson var. scopulorum Engelm.) forests evolved with frequent surface fires and have changed dramatically over the last century. Overstory tree density has sharply increased while abundance of understory vegetation has declined primarily due to the near cessation of fires. We examined effects of varying prescribed fire-return intervals (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 years, plus unburned) on the abundance and composition of understory vegetation in 2007 and 2008 after 30+ years of fall prescribed burning at two ponderosa pine sites. We found that after 30 years, overstory canopy cover remained high, while understory plant canopy cover was low, averaging <12{\%} on all burn intervals. We attributed the weak understory response to a few factors - the most important of which was the high overstory cover at both sites. Graminoid cover and cover of the major grass species, Elymus elymoides (squirreltail), increased on shorter fire-return intervals compared to unburned plots, but only at one site. Community composition differed significantly between shorter fire-return intervals and unburned plots at one site, but not the other. For several response variables, precipitation levels appeared to have a stronger effect than treatments. Our findings suggest that low-severity burn treatments in southwestern ponderosa pine forests, especially those that do not decrease overstory cover, are minimally effective in increasing understory plant cover. Thinning of these dense forests along with prescribed burning is necessary to increase cover of understory vegetation.",
keywords = "Fire frequency, Long-term study, Time-since-fire, Understory response",
author = "Scudieri, {Catherine A.} and Sieg, {Carolyn Hull} and Haase, {Sally M.} and Thode, {Andrea E} and Sackett, {Stephen S.}",
year = "2010",
month = "12",
day = "15",
doi = "10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.005",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "260",
pages = "2134--2142",
journal = "Forest Ecology and Management",
issn = "0378-1127",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "12",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Understory vegetation response after 30 years of interval prescribed burning in two ponderosa pine sites in northern Arizona, USA

AU - Scudieri, Catherine A.

AU - Sieg, Carolyn Hull

AU - Haase, Sally M.

AU - Thode, Andrea E

AU - Sackett, Stephen S.

PY - 2010/12/15

Y1 - 2010/12/15

N2 - Southwestern USA ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson var. scopulorum Engelm.) forests evolved with frequent surface fires and have changed dramatically over the last century. Overstory tree density has sharply increased while abundance of understory vegetation has declined primarily due to the near cessation of fires. We examined effects of varying prescribed fire-return intervals (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 years, plus unburned) on the abundance and composition of understory vegetation in 2007 and 2008 after 30+ years of fall prescribed burning at two ponderosa pine sites. We found that after 30 years, overstory canopy cover remained high, while understory plant canopy cover was low, averaging <12% on all burn intervals. We attributed the weak understory response to a few factors - the most important of which was the high overstory cover at both sites. Graminoid cover and cover of the major grass species, Elymus elymoides (squirreltail), increased on shorter fire-return intervals compared to unburned plots, but only at one site. Community composition differed significantly between shorter fire-return intervals and unburned plots at one site, but not the other. For several response variables, precipitation levels appeared to have a stronger effect than treatments. Our findings suggest that low-severity burn treatments in southwestern ponderosa pine forests, especially those that do not decrease overstory cover, are minimally effective in increasing understory plant cover. Thinning of these dense forests along with prescribed burning is necessary to increase cover of understory vegetation.

AB - Southwestern USA ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson var. scopulorum Engelm.) forests evolved with frequent surface fires and have changed dramatically over the last century. Overstory tree density has sharply increased while abundance of understory vegetation has declined primarily due to the near cessation of fires. We examined effects of varying prescribed fire-return intervals (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 years, plus unburned) on the abundance and composition of understory vegetation in 2007 and 2008 after 30+ years of fall prescribed burning at two ponderosa pine sites. We found that after 30 years, overstory canopy cover remained high, while understory plant canopy cover was low, averaging <12% on all burn intervals. We attributed the weak understory response to a few factors - the most important of which was the high overstory cover at both sites. Graminoid cover and cover of the major grass species, Elymus elymoides (squirreltail), increased on shorter fire-return intervals compared to unburned plots, but only at one site. Community composition differed significantly between shorter fire-return intervals and unburned plots at one site, but not the other. For several response variables, precipitation levels appeared to have a stronger effect than treatments. Our findings suggest that low-severity burn treatments in southwestern ponderosa pine forests, especially those that do not decrease overstory cover, are minimally effective in increasing understory plant cover. Thinning of these dense forests along with prescribed burning is necessary to increase cover of understory vegetation.

KW - Fire frequency

KW - Long-term study

KW - Time-since-fire

KW - Understory response

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=78049270262&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=78049270262&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.005

DO - 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.005

M3 - Article

VL - 260

SP - 2134

EP - 2142

JO - Forest Ecology and Management

JF - Forest Ecology and Management

SN - 0378-1127

IS - 12

ER -