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RMRS-RP-69: Age structure and expansion of piñon-juniper woodlands: a regional perspective in the Intermountain West


Miller, Richard F.; Tausch, Robin J.; McArthur, E. Durant; Johnson, Dustin D.; Sanderson, Stewart C. 2008. Age structure and expansion of piñon-juniper woodlands: a regional perspective in the Intermountain West. Res. Pap. RMRS-RP-69. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 15 p.

Numerous studies have documented the expansion of woodlands in the Intermountain West; however, few have compared the chronology of expansion for woodlands across different geographic regions or determined the mix and extent of presettlement stands. We evaluated tree age structure and establishment for six woodlands in four ecological provinces in the central and northern Great Basin. Since 1860, the area occupied by piñon and or juniper has increased 125 to 625 percent. The increase of trees was a result of infill into shrub-steppe communities with relatively open low density stands of trees and expansion of piñon and juniper into sagebrush-steppe communities that previously did not support trees. Woodland expansion in Oregon, Utah, and Nevada were similar, but began two to three decades earlier in Idaho. The majority of woodlands are still in the early to mid phases of stand closure, which means they often support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. This has implications for future changes that will occur within these woodlands in the next 30 to 50 years. In the absence of disturbance or management, the majority of these landscapes will become closed woodlands resulting in the loss of understory plant species and greater costs for restoration.

Keywords: western juniper, Utah juniper, singleleaf piñon, succession, chronology, old-growth


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Title: RMRS-RP-69: Age structure and expansion of piñon-juniper woodlands: a regional perspective in the Intermountain West
Electronic Publish Date: January 29, 2008
Last Update:
January 29, 2007

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