Bartos, D. L.; Mueggler, W. F. 1981. Early succession in aspen communities following fire in western Wyoming. Journal of Range Management. 34(4):315-318.STUDY LOCATION:
FRES29 Sagebrush 
K038 Great Basin sagebrush 
SAF 217 Aspen 
SRM 401 Basin big sagebrush 
SRM 403 Wyoming big sagebrush
SRM 411 Aspen woodland
The study area consists of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) groves, big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)-dominated grasslands, and scattered subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) trees. Understory vegetation in and around the quaking aspen woodlands was targeted for the fire study. The prefire understory was dominated by forbs; sticky purple geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), lupine (Lupinus spp.), and woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) were most common. Mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus) dominated the shrub layer, and bluegrass (Poa spp.), fringed brome (Bromus ciliatus), and slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulum) were the typical grasses. The composition in terms of production was 68% forbs, 15% grasses, and 17% shrubs before the fire. Annual production of the understory was 1,800 kg/ha.
Quaking aspen groves occupied nearly 1/4 of the hillside study area. Some groves appeared "healthy" and "stable," others appeared to be seral communities being replaced by subalpine fir, while still others were decaying and becoming dominated by big sagebrush grasslands . Mature aspen trees ranged from 85 to 127 years old and basal area was 33 to 45 m²/ha . The average number of quaking aspen sprouts was 14,000 per hectare before burning. All sprouts were less than 1 m tall because of intense elk and moose browsing in the area. The study area is heavily utilized by elk in the winter .FIRE SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
Differences in fuel availability, fuel moistures, and wind speeds during the fire created a mosaic of fire severities within the burned area [1,2].PLANT PHENOLOGY
The fire burned when air temperatures were 25 ° to 27 °C, wind speeds ranged from 13 to 32 km/hr, relative humidity was 15% to 20%, and fuel moistures were between 10% and 45% [1,3].
The variability in fuels, fuel moistures, and environmental conditions created patchy burn severities in the quaking aspen stands. Each macroplot was assigned a low, moderate, or severe severity rating. Low-severity sites had 0% to 20% of litter and duff consumed, moderate-severity sites had 21% to 80% of litter and duff consumed and most of the understory vegetation was scorched or consumed, and high-severity sites had 81% to 100% of litter and duff consumed, all of the understory vegetation consumed, and 90% of the quaking aspens killed. A total of 11 macroplots burned at low severity, 13 at moderate severity, and 12 burned at high severity [1,2].FIRE EFFECTS ON PLANT COMMUNITY:
General community changes: Understory annual production decreased the 1st postfire year, but by the 2nd postfire year, understory production surpassed preburn levels. Production was approximately 33% lower than preburn levels in the 1st postfire year; decreases in production were greatest on severely burned sites and least on sites burned with low severity. In the 2nd postfire year, understory production was almost 66% greater than preburn levels. By the 3rd postfire year, understory production exceeded preburn levels by 12% on low-severity sites, 42% on moderate-severity sites, and 52% on severely burned sites . Twelve years following the fire, understory production still exceeded prefire production by 23%, 42%, and 46% on sites burned with low, moderate, and high severities, respectively. More severely burned areas areas will likely experience longer-lived increases in production .
Composition of the understory was altered by the fire. The preburn understory consisted of 68% forbs, 15% grasses, and 17% shrubs. Composition the 1st postfire year composition was 83% forbs, 11% grasses, and 6% shrubs. Composition the 3rd postfire year was 80% forbs, 16% grasses, and 4% shrubs. Twelve years following the fire forbs comprised 73% to 79%, grasses were 20% or less, and shrubs made up approximately 5% of the understory.
The production of forbs decreased from prefire levels in the 1st postfire year; decreases were greatest on severely burned sites and least on sites burned at low severity. Forb production for the 2nd and 3rd postfire years was greater than preburn levels by 66% and 33%, respectively. By the 12th postfire year, annual forb production was 5% to 14% greater than preburn production.
Grass production was almost 50% less than preburn production in the 1st postfire year. In the 2nd postfire year, grass production was nearly 66% greater than preburn production on low- and moderate-severity sites. Grass production on severely burned sites was much slower to recover to preburn production. By the 12th postfire year, grass production on all burned sites exceeded that of preburn levels and control sites. On low- and high-severity sites, production was significantly (p<0.01) greater than on unburned sites 12 years following the fire. The study area was grazed following the fire, but the researchers reported no visible evidence of livestock grazing before the 1986 sampling season. Grazing may, however, have been a factor in grass production in sampling seasons prior to 1986.
Decreases in shrub (includes quaking aspen sprouts) density were greater than 50% in the 1st postfire year. While the production of quaking aspen sprouts exceeded preburn production by over 50% on moderately burned sites, these increases were short lived. By the 3rd postfire year, overall shrub production on burned sites was only 33% of preburn levels. Shrub production had still not recovered to preburn levels 12 years after the fire. Mountain snowberry, a dominant prefire shrub, drastically decreased on burned sites [1,2].
Below is the average production (dry kg/ha) of the understory before the fire (1974), 3 consecutive postfire years (1975, 1976, and 1977), and 6 (1980) and 12 (1986) years after fire on unburned and burned sites .
|Life form||Fire severity||1974||1975||1976||1977||1980||1986|
The recovery of individual understory species's production was studied in the 3rd and 12th postfire years. A more complete review of quaking aspen's recovery following these fires is provided in quaking aspen's Fire Case Study Aspen sprouting density and elk use after prescribed fire in Wyoming. Further detail of quaking aspen recovery is provided in the original research done by Basile  and Bartos and others .
Fire-tolerant species: Many understory species could be described as fire tolerant in the quaking aspen community. Western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), western valerian (Valeriana occidentalis), fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), quaking aspen, slender wheatgrass, and bluegrass increased or remained relatively unchanged on low-, moderate-, and high-severity sites in the 3rd postfire year. Fringed brome increased from preburn levels on all burned sites by the 12th postfire year. The increases in fireweed production were dramatic and lasted into the 12th postfire year. Fremont's goosefoot (Chenopodium fremontii) was present on only burned sites in the 3rd postfire year and had highest production on severely burned sites.
Fire-sensitive species: Several species showed decreases in production following fire. Mountain snowberry, timber milkvetch (Astragalus miser), woodland strawberry, lupine, and Fendler's meadow-rue (Thalictrum fendleri) had decreased production on all burned sites regardless of burn severity and had not recovered to preburn levels by the 12th postfire year.
Species with production changes related to fire severity: The following discussion highlights species that showed interesting production trends in relation to fire severity. Wood's rose, elkweed (Frasera speciosa), Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), and sticky purple geranium were least sensitive to moderate-severity fire. On moderate-severity sites, the production of Wood's rose was equal to preburn levels by the 3rd postfire year and exceeded preburn levels in the 12th postfire year. Elkweed production increased by more than 50% the 3rd postfire year. Sticky purple geranium and Colorado blue columbine production increased on both low- and moderate-severity sites. However, increases were longer lived on moderate-severity sites for sticky purple geranium, and production levels for Colorado blue columbine were greatest on moderate-severity sites in the 12th postfire year.
Slender cinquefoil (Potentilla gracilis) production increased on moderate-severity sites in the 3rd postfire year, but in the 12th postfire year, production occurred only on low-severity sites. Slender wheatgrass increased on all burned sites by the 3rd postfire year; however, increases were much greater on the moderate-severity site. In the 12th postfire year, slender wheatgrass production was near preburn levels on low- and moderate-severity sites, but exceeded preburn production by 5 times on high-severity sites [1,2].
Below is the production (dry weight, kg/ha) of understory
species before the fire and in the 3rd  and 12th  postfire years
on sites burned at
low-, moderate-, and high-severities.
|Common name||Scientific name||Postfire year||Prefire||Low||Moderate||Severe|
|quaking aspen||Populus tremuloides||3||27||25||39||49|
|Wood's rose||Rosa woodsii||3||53||30||53||16|
|mountain snowberry||Symphoricarpos oreophilus||3||88||9||36||7|
|western yarrow||Achillea millefolium||3||14||40||16||14|
|Colorado blue columbine||Aquilegia caerulea||3||56||80||66||12|
|timber milkvetch||Astragalus miser||3||46||14||7||11|
|Fremont's goosefoot||Chenopodium fremontii||3||0||13||16||57|
|woods strawberry||Fragaria vesca||3||108||94||78||51|
|northern bedstraw||Galium boreale||3||33||42||31||50|
|sticky purple geranium||Geranium viscosissimum||3||297||477||402||255|
|slender cinquefoil||Potentilla gracilis||3||43||41||80||24|
|Fendler's meadow-rue||Thalictrum fendleri||3||62||44||13||9|
|western valerian||Valeriana occidentalis||3||3||8||5||13|
|fringed brome||Bromus ciliatus||3||217||267||181||87|
|slender wheatgrass||Elymus trachycaulus||3||49||57||136||60|
1. Bartos, D. L.; Mueggler, W. F. 1981. Early succession in aspen communities following fire in western Wyoming. Journal of Range Management. 34(4): 315-318. 
2. Bartos, Dale L.; Brown, James K.; Booth, Gordon D. 1994. Twelve years biomass response in aspen communities following fire. Journal of Range Management. 47: 79-83. 
3. Bartos, Dale L.; Mueggler, Walter F. 1979. Influence of fire on vegetation production in the aspen ecosystem in western Wyoming. In: Boyce, Mark S.; Hayden-Wing, Larry D., eds. North American elk, ecology, behavior and management. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming: 75-78. 
4. Bartos, Dale L.; Mueggler, Walter F.; Campbell, Robert B., Jr. 1991. Regeneration of aspen by suckering on burned sites in western Wyoming. Res. Pap. INT-448. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 10 p. 
5. Basile, Joseph V. 1979. Elk-aspen relationships on a prescribed burn. Res. Note INT-271. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 7 p. 
6. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
7. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; Lewis, Mont E.; Smith, Dixie R. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
8. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. United States [Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States]. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 1:3,168,000; colored. 
9. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. 
FEIS Home Page