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    Description

    Fire suppression has significantly increased canopy cover, litter depth, and stem density in many western forests, altering microsite conditions that affect tree seedling establishment. We conducted studies in a mixed-conifer forest in the Sierra Nevada, California, to determine relationships between established understory trees and microsite quality, and to examine the effect of fire intensity and shrub cover on seedling establishment. Most of the conifer species were found on microsites with relatively high soil moisture and relatively low direct solar radiation. All species had greater frequency under shadier conditions except for Jeffrey pine, which was found on drier, more open microsites. Although seedlings were more abundant on mineral soil than expected, intact litter and forest floor was not a barrier to establishment. Mortality of planted seedlings was high, particularly in exposed areas. Although shrub cover may initially aid survival, few conifer saplings were present in shrub-dominated patches, possibly because shrubs can be aggressive competitors for soil moisture. The lack of regeneration, logs, or snags in many openings suggest that large gaps are hostile environments for tree seedlings. Results suggest that reductions in shrub cover may benefit tree establishment, but increasing understory light and decreasing surface soil moisture through canopy cover reductions may not.

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    Citation

    Gray, Andrew N.; Zald, Harold S.J.; Kern, Ruth A.; North, Malcolm. 2005. Stand conditions associated with tree regeneration in sierran mixed-conifer forests. Forest Science. 51(3): 198-210

    Keywords

    natural regeneration, microclimate, fire, shrub competition, old-growth, Abies concolor, Abies magnifica, Calocedrus decurrens, Pinus jeffrey, Pinus lambertiana, Prunus emarginata, Quercus kelloggii, Ceanothus cordulatus, Arctostaphylos patula

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