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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 15(1)

Post-fire epicormic branching in Sierra Nevada Abies concolor (white fir)

Chad T. Hanson A, Malcolm P. North B C

A University of California at Davis, Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Plant Sciences, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
B USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Sierra Nevada Research Center, 2121 2nd Avenue, Suite A-101, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
C Corresponding author. Email: mpnorth@ucdavis.edu
 
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Abstract

In California’s mixed-conifer forest, which historically had a regime of frequent fires, two conifers, Sequoiadendron giganteum and Pseudotsuga menziesii, were previously known to produce epicormic sprouts from branches. We found epicormic branching in a third mixed-conifer species, Abies concolor, 3 and 4 years after a wildfire in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Sprouting occurred only from the boles. We investigated (1) whether the degree of crown loss and the extent of epicormic branching were independent; and (2) whether epicormic branching differed by tree size. The vertical extent of epicormic foliage increased with increasing severity of crown loss. There was a significantly greater proportion of large diameter-class (>50 cm diameter at breast height [dbh]) trees with epicormic branching than small/medium diameter-class (25–50 cm dbh) trees. These results suggest large diameter Abies concolor may survive high levels of crown loss, aided by crown replacement through epicormic branching, but that reiterative green foliage may not appear for up to 3 years after fire damage. If this response is widespread, it would suggest some ‘dying’ trees logged under current salvage guidelines could survive, and that higher-intensity fire may substantially reduce the density of small post-fire suppression white fir, while retaining many larger overstory trees.

Keywords: California; mixed conifer; salvage logging; traumatic crown reiteration.


   
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