Forsythe II Project Aspen

Machinery works on the edge of aspen.
Machinery works along the edge of an aspen stand. This type of activity actually stimulates more aspen growth through ground disturbance and extended exposure to direct sunlight.

Aspen Stands

As a result of fire exclusion, aspen stands within the project area, for the most part, have been invaded by conifers. Over time, conifers often become established and decrease the available light, moisture, and nutrients for the aspen. As the stand grows, and shade on the site increases, conifer species eventually replace the aspen. Reducing shading and competition created by conifer encroachment provides the opportunity for improved growing conditions and slows the natural successional pattern allowing for a longer retention of aspen on the landscape. While aspen’s thin, living bark makes it prone to a host of insect pests and diseases, the primary threats to Colorado’s aspen forests are chronic browsing (e.g. by elk and cattle) of young aspen shoots and more recently a wave of aspen die-off (referred to as ‘sudden aspen decline’) due to long-term drought. Aspen stands are generally areas of greater moisture that can reduce the intensity of wildfires.

Colorado’s aspen forests provide essential wildlife habitat, are second only to riparian areas in terms of biodiversity richness, and provide a natural fire break. Younger aspen stands are often under-represented due to fire exclusion and encroachment of more shade tolerant conifers (Addington et al Draft).

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