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Impacts of mixed severity wildfire on exotic plants in a Colorado ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forest

Posted date: December 01, 2010
Publication Year: 
Authors: Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Stohlgren, Thomas J.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: Biological Invasions. 12(8): 2683-2695.


The 2002 Hayman Fire burned with mixed severity across 55,800 ha of montane Colorado forest, including pre-existing plots that were originally measured for understory plant composition and cover in 1997. We examined the influence of the Hayman Fire on exotic plants by remeasuring these plots annually from 2003 to 2007. We found that (1) exotic richness and cover generally increased as fire severity and time since fire increased; (2) the exotic species present in a plot before the fire were also largely present in the plot postfire, regardless of fire severity; (3) most of the new postfire species in a plot were present elsewhere in the study area before the fire, although some new species were truly new invaders that were not found in prefire surveys; (4) lightly burned riparian forests were not more susceptible to exotic invasion than surrounding uplands that burned with similar severity; and (5) native and exotic richness and cover were positively correlated or uncorrelated for all fire severities and years. Our findings indicate that exotics were stimulated by the Hayman Fire, especially in severely burned areas. However, exotic richness and cover remain low as of 2007, and correlations between native and exotic richness and cover suggest that exotics have not yet interfered with native understory development. Therefore, we conclude that exotic plants are not a major ecological threat at present, but recommend that monitoring be continued to evaluate if they will pose a threat in future years.


Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Stohlgren, Thomas J. 2010. Impacts of mixed severity wildfire on exotic plants in a Colorado ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forest. Biological Invasions. 12(8): 2683-2695.