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

Predicting mortality of ponderosa pine regeneration after prescribed fire in the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA

Mike Battaglia A B C , Frederick W. Smith A and Wayne D. Shepperd B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.

B USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: mbattaglia@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 18(2) 176-190 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF07163
Submitted: 10 November 2007  Accepted: 21 May 2008   Published: 2 April 2009

Abstract

Reduction of crown fire hazard in Pinus ponderosa forests in the Black Hills, SD, often focuses on the removal of overstorey trees to reduce crown bulk density. Dense ponderosa pine regeneration establishes several years after treatment and eventually increases crown fire risk if allowed to grow. Using prescribed fire to control this regeneration is hampered by the limited knowledge of fire-related mortality threshold values for seedlings (<1.4 m tall) and saplings (0.25 to 10 cm diameter at breast height). The present study was initiated to assess fire-related mortality of ponderosa pine seedlings and saplings on prescribed burns across the Black Hills. We established plots in several burn units after the first post-fire growing season to measure crown volume scorch, crown volume consumption, basal scorch, and ground char for ponderosa pine seedlings and saplings. Logistic regression was used to model the probability of mortality based on tree size, flame length, and direct fire effects. Tree size, flame length, crown damage, ground char, and basal char severity were all important factors in the prediction of mortality. Observed mortality was >70% for seedlings but was only 18 to 46% for sapling-sized trees. The differences in mortality thresholds for ponderosa pine seedlings and saplings highlight their susceptibility to different damage pathways and give managers several options when designing burn prescriptions.

Additional keywords: basal char, crown damage, fire management, ground char, logistic regression, Pinus ponderosa, saplings, seedlings.


Acknowledgements

The present research was supported by Joint Venture Agreement no. 03-JV-11221616–232 with the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National Fire Plan project 01.RMS.C.4, and by McIntire-Stennis funding to the Colorado State University Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship. The authors would like to thank Gale Gire, Jay Kurth, Gwen Lipp, and Terry Tompkins from the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest and Andy Thorstenson and Cody Wienk from Wind Cave National Park for their help in locating prescribed burns to sample. The authors also thank Lance Asherin, Jay Aylward, Mike Peterkin, Charity Weaver, Andy Whelan, and Vicky Williams for their assistance in field data collection and entry. We also thank Rudy King for statistical consultations and Tara Keyser for valuable suggestions and recommendations during model building. The comments of two anonymous reviewers and Sharon Hood greatly improved the present manuscript.


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