Forests rely on processes like seed dispersal from seed sources (live trees containing mature cones) to jumpstart post-fire tree regeneration. Consequently, managers often estimate the potential for seed dispersal when anticipating whether a burn site will restock naturally. Seed dispersal is usually estimated using the straight-line distance to nearest seed source. However, distance does not capture how seed source pattern (area and arrangement) near a burn site influences seed supply and delivery. More seed source area increases the total seed supply, while more complex seed source arrangements can better facilitate seed delivery. But for mixed conifer forests in mountainous terrain, effects of scale, multiple tree regeneration traits, and terrain might create more complexity.
In this study, we investigated how seed source pattern, scale, traits, and terrain interact to shape post-fire tree recovery (Figure 1). Our research questions were: (1) Does seed source pattern outperform distance to nearest seed source when anticipating tree species presence and regeneration density after fire? (2) If yes, do effects of seed source pattern vary with scale or terrain? (3) Under what scenarios is seed source pattern more influential than local site conditions for post-fire tree recovery? Understanding how post-fire tree regeneration unfolds across mountainous terrain can help managers support fire-resilient landscapes and strategically delegate resources to burn sites not restocking naturally.