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Monday, April 9 • 5:30pm - 7:00pm
POSTER: Retaining Fire Resilience: Twenty Years of Forest Succession in Old Growth Ponderosa Pine Forest

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AUTHORS: Natalie C Pawlikowski*, The Pennsylvania State University, Alan H Taylor, The Pennsylvania State University, Michelle Coppoletta, U.S. Forest Service, Eric E Knapp, USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station

ABSTRACT: Historically, forest structure and species composition in ponderosa pine forests was maintained by frequent, low to moderate intensity, wildfire. However, fire suppression policy and land-use practices following Euro-American settlement have altered forest conditions and contributed to reduced resilience to wildfire in these forests. Growing recognition of how structural attributes influence resilience has led to an interest in restoring more heterogeneous conditions once common in the forests at both stand and landscape scales; however, little is known about the persistent effects of fire on spatial heterogeneity and fire resilience since few contemporary examples of structurally-restored old-growth ponderosa pine forests exist. Here, we studied how forest structure – density, composition, and spatial patterns – changes following ~20 years of fire suppression in the Beaver Creek Pinery – a contemporary example of heterogeneous wildfire-resilient forest located in the Southern Cascades in northern California. Fire behavior was modeled at different weather and fuel conditions to examine the implications of these structural changes on the stand’s resilience to wildfire. Results show forest structure is starting to homogenize – disturbance-tolerant species – namely, California black oak – are being lost, gaps are being infilled by small trees, and small diameter pines (5-15cm dbh) dominate ~1/3 of the site. However, fire modelling suggests that the majority of overstory (trees >30cm dbh) are still highly resilient to wildfire. Overall, this research broadens our understanding on how forests respond to fire and, in turn, how fire can be used to restore and maintain heterogeneity and resiliency in ponderosa pine forests where wildfires have been suppressed for nearly a century.

Monday April 9, 2018 5:30pm - 7:00pm CDT
Monroe Room

Attendees (5)