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Variability and convergence in stand structural development on a fire-dominated subalpine landscape

Author(s): Daniel M. Kashian, Monica G. Turner, William H. Romme, Craig G. Lorimer
Year Published: 2005

The 1988 Yellowstone fires resulted in a complex mosaic within which postfire lodgepole pine seedling densities varied by over five orders of magnitude. Investigators have speculated that such postfire mosaics of vegetation structure may persist until the next large disturbance, but the fate of the initial structural variability of postfire communities is currently poorly understood. We studied lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Englem. ex Wats.) stands in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, USA) unburned by the 1988 fires to determine how variation in stand structure changes with increasing stand age. The coefficient of variation in stand density decreased from 231% in 12-yr-old stands to 91% in stands aged 50-100 yr, and to 37% for stands ages 200-250 yr. Substantial variability in age distributions both within and among age classes suggested that both gradual infilling of initially sparse stands and self-thinning of initially dense stands are important processes affecting variation in stand density. Variation in stand density was explained primarily by stand age (P < 0.0001) and by geographic location (P < 0.01). Field estimates and reconstructions of stand density trajectories suggest the importance of biotic processes and the contingent effects that produce initial patterns of stand density. Variation in stand density is substantially reduced 125 yr following fire and remains relatively unchanged beyond approximately 200 yr. These results suggest that large, infrequent fires impose a pattern of stand structural variability that may persist for centuries, but stand density likely converges within the fire-free interval in this landscape.

Citation: Kashian, D.M.; Turner, M.G.; Romme, W.H.; Lorimer, C.G. 2005. Variability and convergence in stand structural ddevelopment on a fire-dominated sub-alpine landscape. Ecology. 86(3): 643-654.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Fire History
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 13538
Record updated: Mar 22, 2018