Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Paula J. Fornwalt; Monique E. Rocca; Michael BattagliaCharles C. RhoadesMichael G. Ryan
    Date: 2017
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 385: 214-224.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (1.0 MB)

    Description

    Mulching fuels treatments have been increasingly implemented by forest managers in the western USA to reduce crown fire hazard. These treatments use heavy machinery to masticate or chip unwanted shrubs and small-diameter trees and broadcast the mulched material on the ground. Because mulching treatments are relatively novel and have no natural analog, their ecological impacts are poorly understood. We initiated a study in 2007 to examine the effects of mulching on vascular understory plant communities and other ecological properties and processes. We established 15 study areas in Colorado, USA, distributed across three broadly-defined coniferous forest types: pinyon pine - juniper (Pinus edulis - Juniperus spp.); ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) and ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii); and lodgepole pine (P. contorta) and mixed conifer (lodgepole pine, limber pine (P. flexilis), and other conifers). Measurements were conducted along 50-m transects 2-4 years post-treatment (2007 or 2008), and again 6–9 years post-treatment (2012), in three mulched and three untreated stands per study area. Mulching dramatically reduced overstory basal area (i.e., basal area of trees >1.4 m tall) and increased forest floor biomass (i.e., the biomass of litter, duff, and woody material <2.5 cm in diameter) for all three forest types, as evidenced by previous measurements conducted in our mulched and untreated stands 2-4 years post-treatment. The total richness and cover of understory plant species in mulched stands 2-4 years post-treatment were either similar to, or greater than, the richness and cover in untreated stands for the three forest types; however, by 6-9 years post-treatment, total understory plant richness and cover in mulched stands were always greater. The stimulatory effect of mulching on understory plants was largely driven by the response of graminoids and forbs; mulching had little effect on shrub richness or cover. The increases in total understory plant richness and cover in mulched stands 6-9 years posttreatment occurred despite the fact that understory plants tended to be heavily suppressed in localized areas where the forest floor layer was deep, because such areas were rare. Exotic plant richness and cover were commonly higher in mulched than untreated stands in both sampling periods, but nonetheless understory plant communities remained highly native-dominated. Taken as a whole, our findings suggest that mulching treatments promoted denser and more diverse native understory plant communities in these three Colorado coniferous forest types, particularly over the longer-term.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to rmrspubrequest@fs.fed.us to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Rocca, Monique E.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Rhoades, Charles C.; Ryan, Michael G. 2017. Mulching fuels treatments promote understory plant communities in three Colorado, USA, coniferous forest types. Forest Ecology and Management. 385: 214-224.

    Cited

    Google Scholar

    Keywords

    chipping, exotic plants, fuels treatments, mastication, mulching, understory plants

    Related Search


    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page
https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/53360