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    Author(s): Malcolm North; Jiquan Chen
    Date: 2005
    Source: Forest Science, Vol. 51(3): 185-186
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (32 KB)


    Like much of the western United States, California’s forest has been severely altered by a century of fire suppression. The Sierra Nevada’s largest forest type, mixed conifer, which is primary habitat for more vertebrate species than any other Californian forest community, historically burned every 12–17 years. In 1894, John Muir wrote "The inviting openness of the Sierra woods is one of their most distinguishing characteristics. The trees of all the species stand more or less apart in groves, or in small, irregular groups, enabling one to find a way nearly everywhere, along sunny colonnades and through openings that have a smooth, parklike surface..."; (Muir 1894). Now most mixed-conifer forest is characterized by dense thickets of small shade-tolerant fir and cedar, which could quickly transfer a ground fire into the overstory crowns. Estimates based on the area burned each year project the current fire return interval at >600 years. Regional and national plans such as the Sierra Nevada Forest Framework and the Healthy Forest Initiative have made restoration a priority, yet these plans are highly controversial, in part because there is so little ecological information for guiding management prescriptions. Any effort to restore these forests to "health" or an active fire regime will only be improved with an understanding of how the ecosystem functions. This collection of articles investigates the connections between forest structure and composition, and the ecological processes that define Sierran mixed conifer.

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    North, Malcolm; Chen, Jiquan. 2005. Introduction to the special issue on Sierran mixed-conifer research. Forest Science, Vol. 51(3): 185-186

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