Aspen Restoration in the Eastern Sierra Nevada: Effectiveness of Prescribed Fire and Conifer Removal
Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) comprises only a small fraction (1 %) of the Sierra Nevada landscape, yet contributes significant biological diversity to this range. In an effort to rejuvenate declining aspen stands, the Bureau of Land Management conducted conifer removal in three sites (2004 to 2006) and prescribed fire in two sites (2007). The goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of these treatments. In each site, aspen densities in three regeneration size classes were measured in treated and untreated transects before and up to five years post-treatment. Five years after treatment, two of the three conifer removal sites showed significant improvement over controls in the density of total stems and two of three regeneration size classes. The third site did not show significant gains over controls in any size class and experienced significant aspen overstory mortality three years after treatment, which was attributed to sunscald and advanced age at the time of treatment. Three years after treatment, the two prescribed fire sites showed significant increases in total stem density and two regeneration size classes, but also exhibited significant stem mortality, which was likely due to a combination of herbivory and drought. Overall, both treatments can be effective, but future treatments should incorporate methods to reduce post-treatment mortality of residual aspen and new sprouts.
Krasnow, KD; Halford, AS; Stephens, SL. 2012. Aspen Restoration in the Eastern Sierra Nevada: Effectiveness of Prescribed Fire and Conifer Removal. Fire Ecology. 8(3):104-118.