Ecological - Second Order
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Thinning and thinning followed by prescribed fire are common management practices intended to restore historic conditions in low-elevation ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex P. & C. Laws.) forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. While these treatments generally ameliorate the physiology and growth of residual trees, treatment-specific effects on reproductive output are not known. We examined reproductive output of second-growth ponderosa pine in western Montana 9 years after the application of four treatments: thinning, thinning followed by spring prescribed fire, thinning followed by fall prescribed fire, and unthinned control stands. Field and greenhouse observations indicated that reproductive traits vary depending on the specific management treatment. Cone production was significantly higher in trees from all actively managed stands relative to control trees. Trees subjected to prescribed fire produced cones with higher numbers of filled seeds than trees in unburned treatments. Seed mass, percentage germination, and seedling biomass were significantly lower for seeds from trees in spring burn treatments relative to all others and were generally higher in trees from fall burn treatments. We show for the first time that thinning and prescribed-burning treatments can influence reproductive output in ponderosa pine.