Background: Wildfires are increasing in size and severity in forests of the western USA, driven by climate change and land management practices during the 20th century. Altered fire regimes have resulted in a greater need for knowl‑ edge on best practices for managing burned landscapes, especially in instances where a return to a previous forested ecosystem is desired. We examined a large wildfire from 2018 in southern Colorado to understand how fire severity and post‑fire logging influenced stand structure, fuels, vegetation, and soil microsite conditions.
Results: Two years post‑fire and 1 year post logging, there was no difference in understory vegetation response. Logged plots demonstrated lower daily average temperature and minimum soil moisture and higher fuel loading across most fuel size classes relative to unlogged plots, which also corresponded with a loss of dead standing wood and little to no canopy cover. Early post‑fire conifer regeneration was low across all plots, but lower soil moisture and higher soil temperature negatively impacted the density of regeneration.
Conclusions: Successful tree regeneration is mediated by multiple factors from the microsite to landscape scale. Here, we demonstrate the importance of those microsite conditions such as soil moisture and temperature in predict‑ ing conifer tree establishment in the early post‑fire period. Careful consideration of soil impacts and the associated changes to forest conditions should be taken when conducting post‑fire logging to prevent detrimental effects on microsite conditions and forest recovery.
Keywords: Salvage logging, Post‑fire logging, Post‑wildfire recovery, Tree regeneration