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Effects of fire radiative energy density dose on Pinus contorta and Larix occidentalis seedling physiology and mortality

Author(s): Alistair M. S. Smith, Alan F. Talhelm, Daniel M. Johnson, Aaron M. Sparks, Crystal A. Kolden, Kara M. Yedinak, Kent G. Apostol, Wade T. Tinkham, John T. Abatzoglou, James A. Lutz, Anthony S. Davis, Kurt S. Pregitzer, Henry D. Adams, Robert L. Kremens
Year Published: 2017

Climate change is projected to exacerbate the intensity of heat waves and drought, leading to a greater incidence of large and high-intensity wildfires in forested ecosystems. Predicting responses of seedlings to such fires requires a process-based understanding of how the energy released during fires affects plant physiology and mortality. Understanding what fire ‘doses’ cause seedling mortality is important for maintaining grasslands or promoting establishment of desirable plant species. We conducted controlled laboratory combustion experiments on replicates of well-watered nursery-grown seedlings. We evaluated the growth, mortality and physiological response of Larix occidentalis and Pinus contorta seedlings to increasing fire radiative energy density (FRED) doses created using natural fuels with known combustion properties. We observed a general decline in the size and physiological performance of both species that scaled with increasing FRED dose, including decreases in leaf-level photosynthesis, seedling leaf area and diameter at root collar. Greater FRED dose increased the recovery time of chlorophyll fluorescence in the remaining needles. This study provides preliminary data on what level of FRED causes mortality in these two species, which can aid land managers in identifying strategies to maintain (or eliminate) woody seedlings of interest.

Citation: Smith, Alistair M. S.; Talhelm, Alan F.; Johnson, Daniel M.; Sparks, Aaron M.; Kolden, Crystal A.; Yedinak, Kara M.; Apostol, Kent G.; Tinkham, Wade T.; Abatzoglou, John T.; Lutz, James A.; Davis, Anthony S.; Pregitzer, Kurt S.; Adams, Henry D.; Kremens, Robert L. 2017. Effects of fire radiative energy density dose on Pinus contorta and Larix occidentalis seedling physiology and mortality. International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(1): 82-94.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest, Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 14914
FRAMES RCS number: 23106
Record updated: Dec 21, 2017