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Antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow response to a shelterwood harvest and prescribed burn in western Montana

Posted date: June 23, 2017
Publication Year: 
1999
Authors: Ayers, Dayna M.; Bedunah, Donald J.; Harrington, Michael G.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 14(3): 137-143.

Abstract

In many western Montana ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) stands, fire suppression and past selective logging of large trees have resulted in conditions favoring succession to dense stands of shade-tolerant, but insect- and disease-prone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Stand thinning and understory prescribed burning have been proposed as surrogates for pre-Euro-American settlement ecological processes and as potential treatments to improve declining forest condition and reduce the probability of severe wildfire. To test the effectiveness of these silvicultural techniques on overstory and understory conditions, research is ongoing in the Lick Creek Demonstration Site in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. Our research examined the response (mortality and vigor) of the dominant browse species, antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and Scouler's willow (Salix scouleriana), to a ponderosa pine stand restoration project utilizing four treatments: (I) a shelterwood cut that removed 53% of the tree basal area; (2) a shelterwood cut with a low fuel consumption bum; ( 3) a shelterwood cut with a high fuel consumption bum; and (4) a control. Prior to the application of treatments, 1,856 bitterbrush and 871 willow were located, and their survival and vigor subsequently monitored for 2 yr post-treatment. The cut and bum treatments resulted in the greatest reduction in antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow density averaging 66% and 24% of pretreatment density, respectively. The shelterwood cut reduced bitterbrush and Scouler's willow density by 35% and 14%, respectively. On treatments receiving a shelterwood cut (all treatments but the control), but where antelope bitterbrush and Scouler' s willow did not have fire damage, mortality was 45% for bitterbrush and 20% for willow, respectively. For bitterbrush and Scouler' s willow plants that received fire damage, mortality was 72% for bitterbrush and 19% for willow. Although the burn and shelterwood harvest treatments resulted in reduced density of antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow 2 yr post-treatment, these treatments increased vigor of both species and created mineral seedbeds that may be necessary for establishment of seedlings.

Citation

Ayers, Dayna M.; Bedunah, Donald J.; Harrington, Michael G. 1999. Antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow response to a shelterwood harvest and prescribed burn in western Montana. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 14(3): 137-143.