Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Wildland Resources

Committee Chair(s)

Larissa L. Yocom


Larissa L. Yocom


Karen E. Mock


R. Justin DeRose


Sexual seedling establishment in aspen is increasingly recognized as an important natural regeneration pathway for the species in the western U.S. However, information on seedling abundance as well as factors influencing aspen sexual regeneration is limited and frequently anecdotal, due to historical assumptions of seedling rarity as well as difficulty identifying sexual seedlings from asexual aspen sucker regeneration. This thesis contributes to the field of aspen seedling ecology in three major ways. Chapter 1 utilizes historical aspen seedling occurrences in the western U.S. and a systematic field survey of 2018 fire footprints to explore patterns and test assumptions of aspen seedling establishment across multiple geographic scales. Chapter 2 focuses on one widespread post-fire aspen seedling establishment event in southern Utah, tracking seedlings through time to identify factors that influence survival and growth across a range of environmental conditions. Finally, Chapter 3 is reproduced from a first-authored article published in the Journal of Forestry and presents a framework for non-destructively distinguishing aspen seedlings from suckers, removing a barrier that has hampered aspen seedling research in the past. Together, these chapters expand our understanding of aspen seedling establishment in the western U.S., and highlight the important role sexual aspen establishment may play in the dispersal and recruitment of the species, both historically and in changing future conditions.