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Effectiveness of Litter Removal to Prevent Cambial Kill-Caused Mortality in Northern Arizona Ponderosa Pine

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Removal of deep litter and duff from the base of mature southwestern ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.) is commonly recommended to reduce mortality after prescribed burns, but experimental studies that quantify the effectiveness of such practices in reducing mortality are lacking. After a pilot study on each of four sites in northern Arizona, we monitored 15‐16 sets of 8 matched trees on areas designated to be burned and adjacent not-burned sites and randomly assigned one of four litter and duff removal (to mineral soil) treatments: (1) rake to a distance of 23 cm from the bole, (2) leaf blow to a distance of 23 cm, (3) rake to a distance of 1 m, and (4) no litter or duff disturbance or removal. By 3 years postburn, no trees had died because of any of the treatments, but litter and duff removal prevented most cambial kill. However, 17% of the burned, no removal trees had some cambial kill. Litter and duff removal to 23 cm was as effective in preventing cambial kill and bole char as removal to 1 m, and there was no difference between removal by raking versus leaf blower removal. These results suggest that litter and duff removal is not needed to prevent ponderosa pine mortality after fall prescribed burns, but removal to 23 cm is adequate to prevent spots of cambial kill or moderate bark char.

Keywords: bark char; cambial kill; postfire mortality; prescribed fire; raking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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  • 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
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