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Stand Conditions Associated with Tree Regeneration in Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests

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Fire suppression has significantly increased canopy cover, litter depth, and stem density in many western forests, altering microsite conditions that affect tree seedling establishment. We conducted studies in a mixed-conifer forest in the Sierra Nevada, California, to determine relationships between established understory trees and microsite quality, and to examine the effect of fire intensity and shrub cover on seedling establishment. Most of the conifer species were found on microsites with relatively high soil moisture and relatively low direct solar radiation. All species had greater frequency under shadier conditions except for Jeffrey pine, which was found on drier, more open microsites. Although seedlings were more abundant on mineral soil than expected, intact litter and forest floor was not a barrier to establishment. Mortality of planted seedlings was high, particularly in exposed areas. Although shrub cover may initially aid survival, few conifer saplings were present in shrub-dominated patches, possibly because shrubs can be aggressive competitors for soil moisture. The lack of regeneration, logs, or snags in many openings suggest that large gaps are hostile environments for tree seedlings. Results suggest that reductions in shrub cover may benefit tree establishment, but increasing understory light and decreasing surface soil moisture through canopy cover reductions may not. FOR. SCI. 51(3):198–210.

Keywords: Abies concolor; Abies magnifica; Arctostaphylos patula; Calocedrus decurrens; Ceanothus cordulatus; Natural regeneration; Pinus jeffreyi; Pinus lambertiana; Prunus emarginata; Quercus kelloggii; environmental management; fire; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; microclimate; natural resource management; natural resources; old-growth; shrub competition

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Pacific Northwest Research Station USDA Forest Service 3200 SW, Jefferson Way Corvallis OR 97331 Phone: (541) 750-7252;, Fax: (541) 758-7760, Email: 2: Pacific Northwest Research Station USDA Forest Service 3200 SW, Jefferson Way Corvallis OR 97331 Phone: (541) 750-7299, Email: 3: Department of Biology California State University, Fresno Fresno CA 93740 Phone: (559) 278-4075, Email: 4: Sierra Nevada Research Center, Department of Environmental Horticulture University of California at Davis Davis CA 95616 Phone: (530) 754-7398, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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