We are studying the biophysical and synecological conditions that affect conifer seedling dynamics at:
1) the forest-alpine ecotone (upper treeline), in montane forests, and
2) at the grassland-forest ecotone (lower treeline).
We have discovered elements of microsites that can facilitate and/or impede successful seedling establishment for several montane and high elevation conifers. Using a new sampling and analysis technique, these studies have discovered that the spatial and temporal regeneration of Rocky Mountain bristlecone and limber pine is not like other early seral pines.
The discovered establishment patterns challenge the former hypotheses that regeneration of high elevation pines is exclusively fire-dependent. The protracted establishment dynamic and role of small scale disturbances was further confirmed through stand reconstruction studies. Some of the microsites discovered in these studies that support natural regeneration have now been successfully developed to promote the establishment of planted seedlings.
The information from this study has been used to develop silvicultural prescriptions for the five-needle pines and in post-fire management of ponderosa pine.
For more information on this topic, see the Science Spotlight Potential for maladaptation during active management of limber pine.