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Title: Impacts of fire exclusion and recent managed fire on forest structure in old growth Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests

Author: Collins, Brandon M.; Everett, Richard G.; Stephens, Scott L.;

Date: 2011

Source: Ecosphere. 2(4): 1-14

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: We re-sampled areas included in an unbiased 1911 timber inventory conducted by the U.S. Forest Service over a 4000 ha study area. Over half of the re-sampled area burned in relatively recent management- and lightning-ignited fires. This allowed for comparisons of both areas that have experienced recent fire and areas with no recent fire, to the same areas historically based on early forest inventories. Our results indicate substantially altered present forest conditions, relative to the 1911 data, and can largely be attributed to the disruption of the key ecosystem process for these forests, fire. For areas that burned recently there was a noticeable difference in forest structure based on fire severity. Current tree density and canopy cover in areas burned recently with moderate severity did not differ from 1911 estimates, while areas that burned recently with low severity or were unburned had higher tree density and canopy cover relative to the 1911 estimates. This emphasizes an important distinction with regard to using fire to restore forests, resting primarily on whether fires kill trees in the lower and intermediate canopy strata. Our results also demonstrate nearly a doubling of live tree carbon stocks in the present forest compared to the historical forest. The findings presented here can be used by managers and ecologists interested in restoring Sierra Nevada mixed conifer systems.

Keywords: fire ecology, fire management, forest ecology, restoration

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Collins, Brandon M.; Everett, Richard G.; Stephens, Scott L. 2011. Impacts of fire exclusion and recent managed fire on forest structure in old growth Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests. Ecosphere. 2(4): 14 p doi:10.1890/ES11-00026.1.


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