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.
Tree regeneration is a critical mechanism of forest resilience to stand-replacing wildfire (i.e., where fire results in >90 % tree mortality), and post-fire regeneration is a concern worldwide as the climate becomes warmer.
The western United States is projected to experience more frequent and severe wildfires in the future due to drier and hotter climate conditions, exacerbating destructive wildfire impacts on forest ecosystems such as tree mortality and unsuccessful post-fire regeneration.
Frequent-fire forests were once heterogeneous at multiple spatial scales, which contributed to their resilience to severe fire. While many studies have characterized historical spatial patterns in frequent-fire forests, fewer studies have investigated their temporal dynamics.
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson) is a prominent tree species in forests of the western United States. Wildfire activity in ponderosa pine dominated or co-dominated forests has increased dramatically in recent decades, with these recent wildfires often burning in an uncharacteristic manner due to past land management activities and changing climate.
The degree to which harvesting can achieve comparable beneficial effects to wildfire on seedling establishment is a key factor in understanding regeneration dynamics in dry interior forest ecosystems.
We monitored coarse woody debris dynamics and natural tree regeneration over a 14-year period after the 1991 Warner Creek Fire, a 3631-ha (8,972-ac) mixed severity fire in the western Cascade Range of Oregon.