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    Maintaining understory plant species diversity is an important management goal as forest restoration and fuel reduction treatments are applied extensively to dry coniferous forests of western North America. However, understory diversity is a function of both local species richness (number of species in a sample unit) and community heterogeneity (beta diversity) at multiple spatial scales, while studies of restoration treatment effects often only examine local species richness at one or two spatial scales. We studied experimental thinning and prescribed fire treatment effects on understory plant species richness and community heterogeneity at three spatial scales using additive diversity partitioning. We also evaluated treatment effects on understory plant species colonization and extirpation at two spatial scales. There was no evidence that active restoration treatments reduced species richness or increased local extirpation of species. Restoration treatments significantly increased herbaceous species richness at the treatment unit level primarily by increasing community heterogeneity among sampling points within the units. The combination of thinning and burning produced the greatest increase in community heterogeneity, and increased colonization by species that were not sampled prior to treatment. These results suggest that restoration treatments designed primarily to reduce fire hazard and promote sustainable conditions in these fire-adapted ecosystems can also increase community heterogeneity and facilitate colonization by new understory species without significant local extirpation of extant species.

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    Dodson, Erich K.; Peterson, David W. 2010. Dry coniferous forest restoration and understory plant diversity: The importance of community heterogeneity and the scale of observation. Forest Ecology and Management. 260(10): 1702-1707.


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    beta diversity, burning, colonization, ponderosa pine, spatial scale, thinning

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