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Macroanatomy and compartmentalization of recent fire scars in three North American conifers

Formally Refereed
Authors: Kevin T. Smith, Estelle Arbellay, Donald A. Falk, Elaine Kennedy Sutherland
Year: 2016
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 46: 535-542.


Fire scars are initiated by cambial necrosis caused by localized lethal heating of the tree stem. Scars develop as part of the linked survival processes of compartmentalization and wound closure. The position of scars within dated tree ring series is the basis for dendrochronological reconstruction of fire history. Macroanatomical features were described for western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex P. Lawson & C. Lawson), and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) injured by fire in 2003 and harvested in 2011 at the Lolo National Forest near Missoula, Montana, USA. Bark scorch did not necessarily indicate the formation of a scar. Wound-initiated discoloration inward from the scar face was bounded tangentially by reaction zones. In western larch, the transition between earlywood and latewood was much less abrupt in woundwood rings than in rings formed the same year but not associated with a scar. Wood formed the year after injury contained tangential rows of resin ducts in the earlywood. Compartmentalization plays a key role in resisting the spread of infection and the loss of healthy sapwood and heartwood. Wound closure restores some degree of circumferential continuity of the vascular cambium and reinforces stem structure. The terminology presented here should facilitate communication among tree pathologists, wound anatomists, and dendrochronologists.


fire injury, fire history, dendrochronology, wound pathology, reaction zone, barrier zone, bluestain, conifer defense


Smith, Kevin T.; Arbellay, Estelle; Falk, Donald A.; Sutherland, Elaine Kennedy. 2016. Macroanatomy and compartmentalization of recent fire scars in three North American conifers. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 46: 535-542.