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Contrasting spatial patterns in active-fire and fire-suppressed Mediterranean climate old-growth mixed conifer forestsAuthor(s): Danny L. Fry; Scott L. Stephens; Brandon M. Collins; Malcolm North; Ernesto Franco-Vizcaino; Samantha J. Gill
Source: PLoS One. 9(2): e88985
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionIn Mediterranean environments in western North America, historic fire regimes in frequent-fire conifer forests are highly variable both temporally and spatially. This complexity influenced forest structure and spatial patterns, but some of this diversity has been lost due to anthropogenic disruption of ecosystem processes, including fire. Information from reference forest sites can help management efforts to restore forests conditions that may be more resilient to future changes in disturbance regimes and climate. In this study, we characterize tree spatial patterns using four-ha stem maps from four old growth, Jeffrey pine-mixed conifer forests, two with active-fire regimes in northwestern Mexico and two that experienced fire exclusion in the southern Sierra Nevada. Most of the trees were in patches, averaging six to 11 trees per patch at 0.007 to 0.014 ha-1, and occupied 27–46% of the study areas. Average canopy gap sizes (0.04 ha) covering 11–20% of the area were not significantly different among sites. The putative main effects of fire exclusion were higher densities of single trees in smaller size classes, larger proportion of trees (≥56%) in large patches (≥10 trees), and decreases in spatial complexity. While a homogenization of forest structure has been a typical result from fire exclusion, some similarities in patch, single tree, and gap attributes were maintained at these sites. These within-stand descriptions provide spatially relevant benchmarks from which to manage for structural heterogeneity in frequent-fire forest types.
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CitationFry, Danny L.; Stephens, Scott L.; Collins, Brandon M.; North, Malcolm; Franco-Vizcaíno, Ernesto; Gill, Samantha J. 2014. Contrasting spatial patterns in active-fire and fire-suppressed Mediterranean climate old-growth mixed conifer forests. PLoS One. 9(2): e88985.
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