Growth and defense inform large sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) mortality in a fire‐excluded forest of the central Sierra Nevada

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference


Publication Date

Winter 2-26-2021




Many old-growth pine forests across the western United States have encountered widespread and concerning increases in tree mortality attributed to increased competition and reduced vigor associated with prolonged fire exclusion that can make trees more vulnerable to bark beetles. We investigated the importance of growth and resin duct defense on recent mortality of large sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) in a fire-excluded, mixed-conifer forest of the Sierra Nevada, in California, USA. Growth and defense were measured from tree rings for 33 pairs of live and dead sugar pine. The 10-year trend in basal area increment prior to sampling declined by 1.78 cm2 year− 1 in sugar pine that died and increased by 0.34 cm2 year− 1 in paired live sugar pine. The 10-year trend in resin duct total area showed declines of 0.0154 mm2 year− 1 in trees that died and increases of 0.0068 mm2 year− 1 in trees that survived. The most informative models of large sugar pine mortality included measures of both growth and defense. The top model included the trends of basal area increment and resin duct total area 10 years before mortality, and growth variability 5 years before mortality. In general, trends and variability in growth and defense over shorter time windows (< 10 years) were more informative than average measures or longer time windows. The results from our study suggest treatments that result in neutral to positive trends in allocation to growth and defense may contribute to conditions that reduce probability of mortality in the future.