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Tree Regeneration Responses to Prescribed Fire and Thinning in a Sierran Mixed Conifer Forest Harold S.J. Zald 1, Andrew N. Gray 2, Malcolm North 3, and.

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Presentation on theme: "Tree Regeneration Responses to Prescribed Fire and Thinning in a Sierran Mixed Conifer Forest Harold S.J. Zald 1, Andrew N. Gray 2, Malcolm North 3, and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tree Regeneration Responses to Prescribed Fire and Thinning in a Sierran Mixed Conifer Forest Harold S.J. Zald 1, Andrew N. Gray 2, Malcolm North 3, and Ruth A. Kern 4 1. Dept. Forest Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 2. U.S. Forest Service PNW Research Station, Corvallis, OR 3. U.S. Forest Service PSW Research Station, Sierra Nevada Research Center, Davis, CA 4. Biology Department, Cal State University - Fresno, Fresno, CA

2 . Fire (and the lack of fire) influence composition, structure, and function in most Western forests. Fire and Fire Suppression Generalized impacts of fire suppression Increased stem densities Increased ladder fuels and fuel loadings Increased dominance Of shade tolerant species Reduced fire frequency Increased fire severity North et al. 2005 Forest Science

3 Managing for Fire and Restoration Objectives General Objectives for Sierran Mixed Conifer Forests: Reduce probability of high severity, stand-replacing wildfire Restore pre-settlement composition, structure, and function Increase proportion of fire tolerant, shade intolerant pine species Implicit assumption: all objectives can be met simultaneously in space Primary Land Management Tools to Reach These Objectives Silvicultural Manipulations (Thinning, Replanting) Prescribed fire

4 Seed Production Seedling Establishment Germination Seed Dispersal Climate Predation Resource availability Primary Dispersal Secondary Dispersal Predation Climate Microsite Species Climate Microsite Resource availability Predation Competition Regeneration Influences future fire susceptibility (via horizontal/vertical fuel development) Influences future forest composition and structure (via specific establishment and growth) Often only viewed from the end product (the established seedling) However the What (species composition and abundance) alone does not tell us much about the Why (processes)

5 Study Objectives Investigate understory tree mortality and subsequent regeneration in response to burning and thinning treatments. Specifically, we examined fire and thinning effects on: Seed quantity Sown seedling germination and early survival in controlled microsites Understory tree mortality and natural regeneration Relationships between microsite conditions and post-treatment regeneration

6 Study Area: Teakettle Experimental Forest Located in Sierra National Forest (80km east of Fresno, CA) 1900-2600 m asl 125 cm annual precipitation (almost all snow) Well drained loamy-sand to sandy-loam soils derived from granite Old-growth Sierran mixed conifer forest Density and basal area dominated by white fir and incense-cedar Largest trees Sugar and Jeffrey pine Red fir, Bitter cherry, and California black oak minor components 3 major vegetation patches (closed canopy, shrub, bare ground)

7 Factorial design contrasting two levels of burning, three levels of thinning Experimental Design Thinning treatments (summers 2000&2001): No thin (NT) “CASPO” understory thin (UT) – 25-76 cm DBH harvest, ≥ 40% canopy retention Overstory thinning (OT) - > 25 cm DBH harvest with ~22 large trees per ha. retained Burn treatments (fall 2001): No burn (NB) Understory burn (B) – Ground fire, ≤ 2 m flame heights 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Each treatment unit is a 4 ha plot with three replicates, for a total of 18 plots Within each treatment combination: 1 replicate with 49 grid point sampling 2 replicates with 9 grid point sampling 402 total grid points

8 Sampling Methodology Stand Structure (Plot-level) All trees ≥ 5cm DBH measured and mapped Germination and Survivorship Predation exclosures (9 pairs per burn*thin combination) Seeded with 5 conifer species in first post-treatment year (Oct 2002) Germinants monitored during summers 2003-2005 to record total germinants and survival Regeneration and Micro-site Conditions (Microplot) All trees less than 5cm DBH tallied on 3.5m radius plots Vegetation/substrate cover tallied Solar radiation above each grid point Volumetric soil moisture (top 15cm) estimated using time domain reflectometry over growing seasons Seed Rain 25 0.25m2 seed traps per plot Collected 2001-2003, counted by species

9 Sampling Regeneration: Frequency vs. Density Density (stems/unit area) Stocking guidelines Forage estimates Is this appropriate? Does not incorporate evenness Sensitive to outliers Bias species-environmental relationships Frequency the response variable Defined as the odds ratio of quadrants occupied within a plot 54 12 06 Density=72 1 1 01 Frequency=0.75

10 Results: Overstory & Understory Responses to Treatments Overstory: dominated by White fir (and incense-cedar) pre and post- treatment Only white fir and incense-cedar Slight ingrowth in controls Burning alone does nothing Thinning reduced fir, but did not consistently reduce incense-cedar Thinning and burning resulted in greatest reduction of fir and incense- cedar Pre 1 st 3 rd 2 nd

11 Results: Seed Rain Responses to Treatments Order of magnitude difference between fir and incense-cedar versus pines Fir seed rain declined with increased thinning intensity Incense-cedar and Jeffery pine seed rain did not change with treatments Jeffrey pine seed rain higher in burned and thinned plots

12 Results: Germinant Survival Responses to Treatments Low survival of pine germinants in controls and unburned/understory thin High survival of pine germinants in burn/thinned Low survival of fir germinants in thins Low survival of incense- cedar germinants in overstory thin

13 Results: Seedlings and Microsite Conditions NMS Ordination of post-treatment seedling frequency in micro-plot space Species close together occupy similar micro-plot Joint plot vectors indicate direction/strength of microsite variables in relation to ordination structure Primary microsite variables: moisture, light, shrub cover Seedling species occurrence on soil moisture/light level/shrub abundance gradient Sugar pine seedlings occupied moisture/light/shrub cover similar to White fir High light, High shrub, Low H 2 O Low light, Low shrub, High H 2 O

14 Results: Seedlings Responses to Treatments Burn/no thin: increased fir and sugar pine regeneration Burn/understory thin: massive fir and incense-cedar recruitment Overstory thin: highest Jeffrey pine regeneration If high pine and low fir and incense-cedar is the objective, overstory thin Understory thin counter- productive to many current management objectives

15 No Thin(NT)Understory Thin(UT)Overstory Thin (OT) Burned (B)Unburned (NB) Results: Post-treatment Environment ↑Light ↑H2O ↑Litter&Slash ↓Shrub ↑Light ↑H2O ↑Litter&Slash ↓Shrub Light H2O Litter&Slash Shrub ↑Light ↓H2O ↓Litter&Slash ↓↑Shrub ↑Burn ↑Light ↑H2O ↓Litter&Slash ↓Shrub ↑Burn

16 Conclusions All treatments resulted in fir and incense-cedar still dominating sites Only burning and thinning reduced fir and incense-cedar sapling frequencies Seed rain order of magnitude greater for fir and incense-cedar versus pines Burning alone or burning and thinning increased pine germinant survival while reducing fir and incense-cedar survival Species-specific post-treatment regeneration occurred along a high light- low h20 to low light-h20 gradient. Burning combined with overstory thinning only treatment combination with increased pine regeneration frequency while reducing fir and incense-cedar Understory thinning results in regeneration consistent with overstory

17 Management Implications Current management not meeting multiple objectives Seed source for fir and incense-cedar source of inertia Seed source for pines may limit recruitment (need for planting) Current planting methods are counter-productive Study may be overly optimistic for younger stands (old-growth=large pine) Overstory thinning and burning may conflict with other objectives (wildlife habitat)

18 Acknowledgements Teakettle Experimental Forest Field Crews California State University Agricultural Research Initiative USDA/USDI Joint Fire Sciences Program Sierra Nevada Research Center USDA FS PNW Research Station

19 Questions?

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