Fire exclusion and past management have altered the composition, structure, and function of frequent-fire forests throughout western North America. In mixed-conifer forests of the California Sierra Nevada, fire exclusion has exacerbated the effects of drought and endemic bark beetles, resulting in extensive mortality of fire-adapted pine species. Thinning and prescribed fire are widely used in these forests to reduce fuels, moderate fire behavior, and restore ecosystems. Tree regeneration influences future forest composition and structure, and therefore future resilience to disturbances, but long-term effects of thinning and prescribed burning on tree regeneration after prolonged fire exclusion are poorly understood. We measured tree regeneration one year prior to, and periodically for 16 years following thinning and prescribed burning in a mixed-conifer forest in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. We asked three questions. How did the composition and density of tree regeneration change after thinning and prescribed burning? Did pretreatment vegetation types influence conifer regeneration density after treatments? Did planting after overstory thinning increase regeneration density of native pine species?
Harold S.J. Zald, Carolina J. May, Andrew N. Gray, Malcolm P. North, Matthew D. Hurteau. Thinning and prescribed burning increase shade-tolerant conifer regeneration in a fire excluded mixed-conifer forest. Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 551, 2024, 121531, ISSN 0378-1127, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2023.121531.