Wildland fire effects on understory plant communities in two fire-prone forests

Daniel C. Laughlin, Peter Z Fule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Our understanding of wildland fire effects on understory plant communities is limited because of a lack of repeated measurements before and after lightning-ignited fires. We examined vegetation responses to a surface fire in a ponderosa pine forest and a mixed-severity fire in a spruce-fir-aspen forest using before-after, control-impact (BACI) study designs. We hypothesized that the surface fire would stimulate plant species richness and minimally alter community composition, but that the mixed-severity fire would decrease richness and significantly alter composition. In ponderosa pine forests, total species richness and plant cover increased slightly because of annual and biennial forb and grass establishment in soils where duff layers were reduced by the surface fire. In spruce-fir-aspen forests, total species richness and plant cover were similar in burned and unburned forests after 2 years, although annual and biennial forbs and graminoids increased significantly in the burned area. Plant community composition was altered by both fires. Wildfires may indirectly influence the understory plant community through the mediating effects of overstory basal area and litter depth. Fire effects on plant species richness and cover were weaker than effects due to environmental factors. Managers should anticipate increases in both native and non-native ruderal species following landscape-scale fires.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-142
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2008

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forest fires
wildfires
forest fire
understory
plant community
plant communities
species diversity
fire severity
Pinus ponderosa
species richness
ground cover plants
Abies
coniferous forests
Picea
lightning
community composition
forbs
overstory
effect
basal area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science

Cite this

Wildland fire effects on understory plant communities in two fire-prone forests. / Laughlin, Daniel C.; Fule, Peter Z.

In: Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Vol. 38, No. 1, 01.2008, p. 133-142.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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