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    Description

    Straw mulch application after high severity wildfire has gained favor in recent years due to its efficacy in reducing soil erosion hazards. However, possible collateral effects of mulching on post-fire vegetation recovery have received relatively little study. We assessed mulching effects on plant cover and species richness, tree seedling establishment, and exotic species densities in the second year following the 2006 Tripod Wildfire in north-central Washington State, USA, by observing vegetation responses to spatial variability in mulch cover and depth. Mulch cover averaged about 35%, with a median depth of 0.5 cm. Vegetation recovery was generally slow, with median plant cover of only 10%. Tree seedling densities were low and spatially variable. Vegetative cover, species richness, and seedling densities all declined with increasing elevation. Mulch cover was positively associated with plant cover, plant species richness, and conifer seedling densities when second year mulch cover did not exceed 40%. Only when mulch cover exceeded 70% did mulching begin to negatively affect vegetation recovery relative to areas with no mulch. Vegetation responses to mulch depth were minimal at depths under 3 cm, but quite strong when mulch depth exceeded 5 cm. Exotic plant frequency and density were positively associated with mulch cover, but exotic plant cover was low on average (<1%). In this study, mulch added significant cover to sites with slow natural recovery of vegetation, thereby likely reducing erosion hazard. Mulching also appears to have facilitated native plant recovery and conifer seedling establishment except at very high application levels, easing management concerns about longer-term impacts of mulching treatments on post-fire vegetation recovery.

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    Citation

    Dodson, Erich K.; Peterson, David W. 2010. Mulching effects on vegetation recovery following high severity wildfire in north-central Washington State, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 260: 1816-1823.

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    Keywords

    agricultural straw, conifer regeneration, erosion, exotic species, lodgepole pine, seedlings, species richness

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