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Title: Post-fire tree establishment patterns at the alpine treeline ecotone: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Author: Stueve, Kirk M.; Cerney, Dawna L.; Rochefort, Regina M.; Kurth, Laurie L.;

Date: 2009

Source: Journal of Vegetation Science. 20(1): 107–120.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Questions: Does tree establishment: (1) occur at a treeline depressed by fire, (2) cause the forest line to ascend upslope, and/or (3) alter landscape heterogeneity? (4) What abiotic and biotic local site conditions are most important in structuring establishment patterns? (5) Does the abiotic setting become more important with increasing upslope distance from the forest line?

Location: Western slopes of Mount Rainier, USA.

Methods: We performed classification analysis of 1970 satellite imagery and 2003 aerial photography to delineate establishment. Local site conditions were calculated from a LIDAR-based DEM, ancillary climate data, and 1970 tree locations in a GIS. We used logistic regression on a spatially weighted landscape matrix to rank variables.

Results: Considerable establishment after 1970 caused forest line elevation to increase over 150 m in specific locations. Landscape heterogeneity increased with distance from the 1970 forest line. At a broad spatial context, we found establishment was most common near existing trees (0-50 m) and at low elevations (1250-1350 m). Slope aspect (W, NW, N, NE, and E), slope angle (40-60°), and other abiotic factors emerged as important predictors of establishment with increasing upslope distance from the forest line to restricted spatial extents.

Conclusions: Favorable climatic conditions likely triggered widespread tree establishment. Readily available seed probably enhanced establishment rates near sexually mature trees, particularly in the less stressful environment at low elevations. The mass effect of nearly ubiquitous establishment in these areas may have obscured the importance of the abiotic setting to restricted spatial extents. Topographic variability apparently produced favorable sites that facilitated opportunistic establishment with increasing upslope distance from the forest line, thereby enabling additional trees to invade the alpine tundra.

Keywords: Abies lasiocarpa, CORONA, Hierarchical partitioning, Landscape, Pacific Northwest, Seed dispersal, Spatial autocorrelation, Subalpine parkland, Topography

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Stueve, Kirk M. ; Cerney, Dawna L. ; Rochefort, Regina M. ; Kurth, Laurie L. 2009. Post-fire tree establishment patterns at the alpine treeline ecotone: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA. Journal of Vegetation Science 20(1): 107–120.


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