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Presettlement regeneration patterns in a southwestern usa ponderosa pine pinus ponderosa stand

Presettlement regeneration patterns in a southwestern usa ponderosa pine pinus ponderosa stand

Ecology (Washington D C) 66(2): 589-594

Tree stems .gtoreq. 106 yr old (i.e., established before significant European influence in this area) in a 7.3-ha old-growth ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona were aged and mapped. Age structure analysis showed that successful establishment of ponderosa pine was infrequent. The periods without successful establishment could be quite long, as suggested by 4 consecutive decades in which only 2 surviving trees were established. The stems were strongly aggregated, as measured with nearest neighbor analysis, and groups were visually distinct in the field. Most of the stems occurred in groups of 3 or more, with group size ranging from 3-44 stems and area occupied by a group ranging from 0.02-0.29 ha. Ages of stems within groups were variable, the most homogeneous group having a range of 33 yr and the least having a range of 268 yr. The data are not consistent with the commonly held view that southwestern ponderosa pine occurs in even-aged groups and that each group became established following the demise of the group previously occupying the site. Seedlings apparently became established when 1 or 2 trees within the group died, the additional fuel surrounding the dead trees causing an intensely burned spot in the otherwise low-intensity fires that were frequent in the area. The hot spot would create a potential seedbed for pine by eliminating, at least temporarily, the competing grasses on that small area. This decreased competition, in conjunction with adequate seed production and favorable moisture conditions in the spring and early summer, may be critical for ponderosa pine establishment. The relative infrequency of all these events occurring in the necessary sequence could explain the erratic age structure data from this area.

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