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Regeneration of Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) and limber pine (Pinus flexilis) three decades after stand-replacing fires

Posted date: February 02, 2009
Publication Year: 
2009
Authors: Coop, Jonathan D.; Schoettle, Anna W.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 257: 893-903.

Abstract

Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) and limber pine (Pinus flexilis) are important highelevation pines of the southern Rockies that are forecast to decline due to the recent spread of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) into this region. Proactive management strategies to promote the evolution of rust resistance and maintain ecosystem function require an improved understanding of the role of disturbance on the population dynamics of both species and environmental conditions that favor seedling establishment. We examined patterns of bristlecone and limber pine regeneration across the perimeters of three, 29-year-old, high-severity burns in northern, central, and southern Colorado: Ouzel, Badger Mountain, and Maes Creek, respectively. Both species exhibited a very protracted regeneration response to these fires. Bristlecone pine regeneration was concentrated near burn edges and beneath surviving seed sources. This spatial pattern is consistent with limitations incurred by wind-dispersal, also borne out by the low occurrence of seedling clusters. Relative to unburned stands, the absolute abundance of bristlecone pine generally increased only on plots retaining some surviving trees. Limber pine regeneration pattern varied between sites: high in the burn interior at Ouzel, concentrated at burn edges at Badger, and mostly in unburned stands at Maes. Clark's Nutcracker dispersal of limber pine in each study area was indicated by high seedling distance from possible seed sources and high frequencies of clustered stems. Except at Ouzel, the absolute abundance of limber pine decreased in burns. Across sites, establishment by both species was boosted by nearby nurse objects (rocks, fallen logs, and standing tree trunks), a relationship that extended out at least as far as the closest three such objects, usually found within 50 cm. Fire decreased the frequency of Pedicularis but increased Castilleja and Ribes species (alternate hosts of white pine blister rust), though only one species, R. cereum, was positively associated with either pine species. We conclude that regeneration of bristlecone and limber pine may benefit from natural disturbance or proactive management creating appropriately sized openings and microtopographic structure (e.g., abundant fallen logs); however, beneficial responsesmay require many decades to be achieved.

Citation

Coop, Jonathan D.; Schoettle, Anna W. 2009. Regeneration of Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) and limber pine (Pinus flexilis) three decades after stand-replacing fires. Forest Ecology and Management. 257: 893-903.