Category: General Publications
Title: Presettlement Regeneration Patterns in a Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Stand
Author: White, A.S.
Subject: Pre-settlement, Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Age structure, Wildfire, Old-growth, Regeneration, Spatial Dynamics
Abstract: Tree stems >= 106 yr old (i.e., established before significant European influence in this area) in a 7.3-ha old-growth ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest in northern Arizona were aged and mapped. Age structure analysis showed that successful establishment of ponderosa pine was infrequent. The periods without successful establishment could be quite long, as suggested by four consecutive decades in which only two surviving trees were established. The stems were strongly aggregated, as measured with nearest neighbor analysis, and groups were visually distinct in the field. Most of the stems occurred in groups of three or more, with group size ranging from 3 to 44 stems and area occupied by a group ranging from 0.02 to 0.29 ha. Ages of stems within groups were variable, the most homogeneous group having a range of 33 yr and the least having a range of 268 yr. The data are not consistent with the commonly held view that southwestern ponderosa pine occurs in even-aged groups and that each group became established following the demise of the group previously occupying the site. Instead, it seems more likely that seedlings became established when one or two trees within the group died, the additional fuel surrounding the dead trees causing an intensely burned spot in the otherwise low-intensity fires that were frequent in the area. The hot spot would create a potential seedbed for pine by eliminating, at least temporarily, the competing grasses on that small area. This decreased competition, in conjunction with adequate seed production and favorable moisture conditions in the spring and early summer, may well have been critical for ponderosa pine establishment. The relative infrequency of all these events occuning in the necessary sequence could explain the erratic age structure data from this area.
Publisher: Ecological Society of America