Fire severity in forests is often defined in terms of post-fire tree mortality, yet the influences on tree mortality following fire are not fully understood. For trees that are not killed immediately by severe fire injury, pre-fire growth may partially predict post-fire mortality probabilities for conifers of the western U.S. Here, we consider the influence of multiple growth patterns on post-fire tree mortality. Using observations from 1 to 9 years following prescribed fires in US national parks across five western states, we show that post-fire mortality for three common conifer species is related not only to fire-caused injuries (crown scorch and bole char), but also to average growth rate and long-term (25 yr) growth patterns (counts of abrupt growth declines, and possibly growth trends). Our results suggest that pre-fire environmental and biological conditions impacting tree vigor may influence post-fire tree mortality probabilities. Fire severity, as measured by tree mortality, thus reflects tree condition as well as fire intensity. Environmental conditions (such as rising temperatures and moisture stress), independent of fire intensity, may thus cause expressed fire severity to increase in western forests.
|Title||The influence of pre-fire growth patterns on post-fire tree mortality for common conifers in western U.S. parks|
|Authors||Phillip van Mantgem, Donald A. Falk, Emma C. Williams, Adrian J. Das, Nathan L. Stephenson|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||International Journal of Wildland Fire|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Western Ecological Research Center|