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Short-term ecological consequences of collaborative restoration treatments in ponderosa pine forests of Colorado

Author(s): Jennifer S. Briggs, Paula J. Fornwalt, Jonas A. Feinstein
Year Published: 2017

Ecological restoration treatments are being implemented at an increasing rate in ponderosa pine and other dry conifer forests across the western United States, via the USDA Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program. In this program, collaborative stakeholder groups work with National Forests (NFs) to adaptively implement and monitor ecological restoration treatments intended to offset the effects of many decades of anthropogenic stressors. We initiated a novel study to expand the scope of treatment effectiveness monitoring efforts in one of the first CFLR landscapes, Colorado’s Front Range. We used a Before/After/Control/Impact framework to evaluate the short-term consequences of treatments on numerous ecological properties. We collected pre-treatment and one year post-treatment data on NF and partner agencies’ lands, in 66 plots distributed across seven treatment units and nearby untreated areas. Our results reflected progress toward several treatment objectives: treated areas had lower tree density and basal area, greater openness, no increase in exotic understory plants, no decrease in native understory plants, and no decrease in use by tree squirrels and ungulates. However, some findings suggested the need for adaptive modification of both treatment prescriptions and monitoring protocols: treatments did not promote heterogeneity of stand structure, and monitoring methods may not have been robust enough to detect changes in surface fuels. Our study highlights both the effective aspects of these restoration treatments, and the importance of initiating and continuing collaborative science-based monitoring to improve the outcomes of broad-scale forest restoration efforts.

Citation: Briggs, Jennifer S.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Feinstein, Jonas A. 2017. Short-term ecological consequences of collaborative restoration treatments in ponderosa pine forests of Colorado. Forest Ecology and Management. 395: 69-80.
Topic(s): Fuel Treatments & Effects, Fuels Inventory & Monitoring, Recovery after fire, Fuels
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 15484
Record updated: May 24, 2018