Category: Ecological Research
Title: Changes in Ponderosa Pine Forests of the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness
Author: * Covington, W.W. , * Heinlein, T.A. , * Fule, P.Z. , * Waltz, A.E.M. , * Springer, J.D.
Subject: Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Mt. Trumbull, Fire history
Abstract: Ponderosa pine forests in the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness on the Arizona Strip have become dense with young trees and highly susceptible to catastrophic wildfire due to exclusion of the natural frequent-fire regime. As part of a broader regional ecological restoration study, the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness was sampled for fire scarred trees, vegetation, and fuels in 1997 and 1999. Reconstructed fire histories show that fires recurred about every 4.4 years prior to settlement, with larger fires burning every 9.5 years. Frequent fires ceased after 1863 in the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness, coincident with the time of Euro-American settlement around 1870, beginning a fire-free period that has lasted up to the present except for a few small fires and a larger 1989 wildfire. Current forests are dense, averaging approximately 1,200 trees/ha, and dominated by small trees. Throughout the wilderness, tree canopy cover averages over 65(percent) and tree basal area is high, 35- 36 m2/ha. Understory plant cover is about 20(percent) and understory species diversity averages 11.4 species/sample plot. Living and dead fuels, including plants, woody debris, and the forest floor, will easily support high-intensity wildfires. In contrast, the presettlement forest was relatively open, with tree density of approximately 62 trees/ha and basal area averaging 8.9 m2/ha, dominated by large ponderosa pine trees. In ecological terms, prospects are good for restoring the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness to emulate the ecological structure and fire disturbance regime of the presettlement reference condition. The current forest condition is perhaps least affected by recent degradation of any site in the Uinkaret Mountains. However, ecological information is only one component contributing to the debate over appropriate management values and practices in wilderness areas on public lands.
Source: ERI Research Progress Report
Publisher: NAU Ecological Restoration Institute, http://www.eri.nau.edu