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Nitrogen spatial heterogeneity influences diversity following restoration in a ponderosa pine forest, Montana

Author(s): Michael J. Gundale, Thomas H. DeLuca, Carl E. Fiedler, Kerry L. Metlen
Year Published: 2006
Description:

The resource heterogeneity hypothesis (RHH) is frequently cited in the ecological literature as an important mechanism for maintaining species diversity. The RHH has rarely been evaluated in the context of restoration ecology in which a commonly cited goal is to restore diversity. In this study we focused on the spatial heterogeneity of total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) following restoration treatments in a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)/Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forest in western Montana, USA. Our objective was to evaluate relationships between understory species richness and TIN heterogeneity following mechanical thinning (thin-only), prescribed burning (burn-only), and mechanical thinning with prescribed burning (thin/burn) to discern the ecological and management implications of these restoration approaches. We employed a randomized block design, with three 9-ha replicates of each treatment and an untreated control. Within each treatment, we randomly established a 20 X 50 m (1000 m^2) plot in which we measured species richness across the entire plot and in 12 1-m^2 quadrats randomly placed within each larger plot. Additionally, we measured TIN from a grid consisting of 112 soil samples (0-5 cm) in each plot and computed standard deviations as a measure of heterogeneity. We found a correlation between the net increase in species richness and the TIN standard deviations one and two years following restoration treatments, supporting RHH. Using nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination and chi-squared analysis, we found that high and low TIN quadrats contained different understory communities in 2003 and 2004, further supporting RHH. A comparison of restoration treatments demonstrated that thin/burn and burn-only treatments created higher N heterogeneity relative to the control. We also found that within prescribed burn treatments, TIN heterogeneity was positively correlated with fine-fuel consumption, a variable reflecting burn severity. These findings may lead to more informed restoration decisions that consider treatment effects on understory diversity in ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir ecosystems.

Citation: Gundale, Michael J.; Metlen, Kerry L.; Fiedler,Carl E.; DeLuca, Thomas H. 2006. Nitrogen spatial heterogeneity influences diversity following restoration in a ponderosa pine forest, Montana. Ecological Applications. 16(2): 479-489.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Recovery after fire
Ecosystem(s): Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 7898
FRAMES RCS number: 250
Record updated: Nov 30, 2017