We studied the relationship between observed fire effects and stand age in a recently burned subalpine Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex. Engelm.) – subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.) forest in New Mexico. We installed a network of variable-radius plots to assess stand structure, and cored 379 trees to measure the spatial patterns of the stand ages with respect to fire boundaries.
We found that pre-fire stand age and stand mortality were not significantly related at either of two spatial scales (p ≤ 0.33 and p ≤ 0.26). We also found that stand structure and stand composition were poor indicators of stand age. The random effects terms of
a linear mixed-effects model revealed substantial heterogeneity in stand structure and composition with respect to age at fine spatial scales. Discussions of the factors contributing to stand-replacing fires in subalpine Engelmann spruce – subalpine fir forests might be improved by focusing
on traits that are more reliably linked to fuel characteristics, rather than on the age of the stands.
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