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Fire effects on vegetation recovery following eight large western wildfires

Author(s): Leigh B. Lentile, Penelope Morgan, Michael J. Bobbitt, Sarah A. Lewis, Andrew T. Hudak, Peter R. Robichaud
Year Published: 2006

We examined vegetation diversity and landscape pattern relative to burn severity following eight large wildfires that burned in 2003 and 2004 in California chaparral, in mixed conifer forests in Montana, and in boreal forests in interior Alaska. Our goal was to relate post-fire vegetation recovery and field and remotely sensed indicators of burn severity. We describe initial fire effects on soil, forest floor, and plant communities in areas of different burn severity, and relate this information to one year post-fire plant species richness, cover, and diversity. For all eight fires, plant canopy cover and species richness were low and non-native species were more abundant where fires burned severely. Species diversity was highest on less severely burned sites. We found a greater number of forbs when compared to other plant life forms, independent of burn severity. Plant cover was dominated by grasses in chaparral systems, forbs in mixed-conifer forests, and shrubs in boreal forests. Site conditions, prefire vegetation, as well as post-fire revegetation strategies most likely explain the high variation observed in post-fire response across sites and burn severities. Preliminar results suggest that initial fire effects such as soil charring, litter and duff reduction, and tree mortality are correlated with reduced one-year post-fire understory plant cover and richness, and thus could be used as indicators of burn severity influencing vegetation recovery rates. The proportion and pattern of patches burned in different burn severities (as indicated by delta Normalized Burn Ratio, dNBR) were dissimilar across sites. Thus burnseverity at both plot and landscape scales will influence successional trajectories following fires. Quantified indicators of burn severity will facilitate consistent characterization of postfire effects and prediction of likely post-fire responses across a broad range of sites and conditions.

Citation: Lentile, Leigh B.; Morgan, Penelope; Bobbitt, Michael J.; Lewis, Sarah A.; Hudak, Andrew T.; Robichaud, Peter R. 2006. Fire effects on vegetation recovery following eight large western wildfires. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Fire Ecology and Management Congress. 2006 November 13-17 2006.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - First Order, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Fire Regime
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 10986
FRAMES RCS number: 2656
Record updated: May 10, 2018