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Postfire aspen seedling recruitment across the Yellowstone (USA) landscape

Author(s): Monica G. Turner, William H. Romme, Gerald A. Tuskan, Rebecca A. Reed
Year Published: 2003

Landscape patterns of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) seedling occurrence and abundance were studied after a rare recruitment event following the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Belt transects (1 to 17 km in length, 4 m width) along 18 foot trails were surveyed for aspen seedlings on the subalpine plateau of the Park, along gradients of elevation and geologic substrate, during the summer of 1996. Aspen seedling presence and density were characterized as a function of elevation, geologic substrate, slope, aspect, vegetation/cover type, presence of burned forest, and distance to nearest adult aspen stand. Presence of aspen seedlings was best predicted by the incidence of burned forest and proximity to adult aspen; aspen seedlings were only found in burned forest and were more likely to occur closer to adult aspen clones. When tested against independent data collected in 1997, the logistic regression model for aspen seedling presence performed well (overall accuracy = 73%, Taup = 0.41). When present, variation in aspen seedling density at local scales (200 m) was largely explained by elevation, with higher densities observed at lower elevations. At broad scales (> 1km), seedling density was a function of cover type, elevation, aspect, slope, and burn severity, with greater seedling density in more severely burned forested habitats on southerly, shallow slopes at lower elevations. Aspen seedling densities ranged from 0 to 46,000 seedlings/ha with a median density of 2,000/ha on sites where they occurred. Aspen seedlings were most abundant in the south central and southwest central regions of the park, approximately an order of magnitude less abundant in the southeast region, and nearly absent in the north central area. Establishment of new aspen stands on Yellowstone’s subalpine plateau would represent a substantial change in the landscape. However, the long-term fate of these postfire aspen seedlings is not known.

Citation: Turner, M.G.; Romme, W.H.; Reed, R.A.; Tuskan, G.A. 2003. Postfire aspen seedling recruitment across the Yellowstone (USA) landscape. Landscape Ecology. 18: 127-140
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - First Order, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Fire Regime
Ecosystem(s): Aspen woodland, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 13542
Record updated: May 10, 2018