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A hierarchical analysis of stand structure, composition, and burn patterns as indicators of stand age in an Engelmann spruce – subalpine fir forest

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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.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 3, 2007

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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