Montane forestsAuthor(s): Malcolm North; Brandon M. Collins; Hugh Safford; Nathan L. Stephenson
Source: In: Mooney, Harold; Zavaleta, Erika, eds. Ecosystems of California: Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 553-577. Chapter 27
Publication Series: Book Chapter
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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California’s montane forests include some of the most productive and diverse temperate ecosystems in the world, containing the largest single stem tree (the 1487 m3 General Sherman giant sequoia [Sequoiadendron giganteum]) (Van Pelt 2001) and highest conifer diversity (30 plus species in the Klamath-Siskiyou mountain range) (Sawyer 2006). Although these forests share some of the attributes of those in the Pacific Northwest (i.e., long-lived large trees, and some common wildlife species)(North et al. 2004) and Southwest (i.e., historical forests dominated by pine and shaped by frequent fire), their combination of high productivity, strong seasonal drought and fire dependence ecologically distinguish them from montane forests in these adjacent areas. The distribution of different forest types is strongly influenced by temperature and precipitation gradients associated with elevation and inland distance from the Pacific Ocean. Historically the forests have been logged but interestingly for the nation’s most populous state, some large areas of montane forest, especially in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, remain only lightly impacted by human resource use. Management practices in these montane forests have often been controversial, and fire suppression has significantly altered forest conditions such that fires escaping containment are often large and produce extensive areas burned at high severity. Climate change, California’s increasing population and projected increases in wildfire pose challenges that will require collaborative and inventive future management. In this chapter we focus on montane forest ecosystems in California’s Sierra Nevada, Klamath, Cascade, Coastal, Traverse and Peninsular ranges. These forests are often bordered at lower elevations by warmer, drier ecosystems that include oak-savannah and chaparral, and at upper elevations by colder red fir and subalpine forests characterized by deeper, more persistent snow packs.
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CitationNorth, Malcolm; Collins, Brandon M.; Safford, Hugh; Stephenson, Nathan L. 2016. Montane forests. In: Mooney, Harold; Zavaleta, Erika, eds. Ecosystems of California: Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 553-577. Chapter 27.
KeywordsSierra Nevada, forest management, climate change
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