International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of fire radiative energy density dose on Pinus contorta and Larix occidentalis seedling physiology and mortality

Alistair M. S. Smith A I , Alan F. Talhelm A B , Daniel M. Johnson A , Aaron M. Sparks A , Crystal A. Kolden A , Kara M. Yedinak A , Kent G. Apostol C , Wade T. Tinkham D , John T. Abatzoglou E , James A. Lutz F , Anthony S. Davis A , Kurt S. Pregitzer A , Henry D. Adams G and Robert L. Kremens H
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

B Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education, National Center for Environmental Assessment, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 277094, USA.

C College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Payson, AZ 85541, USA.

D Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.

E College of Science, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

F Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA.

G Department of Botany, 104 Life Sciences Building East, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.

H Carlson Center for Imaging Science, Rochester institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, NY 14623, USA.

I Corresponding author. Email: alistair@uidaho.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(1) 82-94 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16077
Submitted: 4 May 2016  Accepted: 12 November 2016   Published: 10 January 2017

Abstract

Climate change is projected to exacerbate the intensity of heat waves and drought, leading to a greater incidence of large and high-intensity wildfires in forested ecosystems. Predicting responses of seedlings to such fires requires a process-based understanding of how the energy released during fires affects plant physiology and mortality. Understanding what fire ‘doses’ cause seedling mortality is important for maintaining grasslands or promoting establishment of desirable plant species. We conducted controlled laboratory combustion experiments on replicates of well-watered nursery-grown seedlings. We evaluated the growth, mortality and physiological response of Larix occidentalis and Pinus contorta seedlings to increasing fire radiative energy density (FRED) doses created using natural fuels with known combustion properties. We observed a general decline in the size and physiological performance of both species that scaled with increasing FRED dose, including decreases in leaf-level photosynthesis, seedling leaf area and diameter at root collar. Greater FRED dose increased the recovery time of chlorophyll fluorescence in the remaining needles. This study provides preliminary data on what level of FRED causes mortality in these two species, which can aid land managers in identifying strategies to maintain (or eliminate) woody seedlings of interest.

Additional keywords: carbon, FRED, intensity, photosynthesis, recovery, severity.


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