Post-fire Aspen Regeneration Varies in Response to Winter Precipitation

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Aspen is generally considered an early-seral species that benefits from fire, but increases in fire activity across the western United States could affect aspen in unpredictable ways.

To better understand climate influence on post-fire aspen regeneration, USGS researchers Douglas Shinneman and Susan McIlroy examined aspen stands that burned once between 2000 and 2009 in areas spanning from the north-central Great Basin to the northeastern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They investigated how seasonal precipitation, temperature, snowpack, and site conditions influenced density of post-fire aspen regeneration and recruitment. The range of post-fire regeneration and recruitment densities varied widely across plots. Higher than average post-fire early winter precipitation increased aspen densities, while animal herbivory, even at low levels, decreased aspen densities. Recruitment densities also decreased with higher than average post-fire temperatures. Authors discuss findings in terms of dynamic management and conservation strategies in light of changing fire regimes and climate conditions.

 

McIlroy, S.K., Shinneman, D.J., 2019, Post-fire aspen (Populus tremuloides) regeneration varies in response to winter precipitation across a regional climate gradient: Forest Ecology and Management, v. 455, p. 117681, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117681

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