Authors: Jayne L Jonas; Erin Berryman; Penny Morgan; Brett Wolk; Pete RobichaudFollowing the 2012 High Park Fire in Colorado, we initiated a study to understand impacts of post-fire mulching on ecosystem recovery. Mulches were applied to a lodgepole pine forest burned at high severity in a randomized complete block design immediately following the fire in July 2012; plant and soil monitoring occurred from 2012 to 2016. Treatments included wheat straw, wood strands, and wood shreds applied at two different coverage rates, a synthetic mulch, and an unmulched control. Pine seedling densities increased from 2013 to 2016. By 2016, densities were highest with wood shred, wood strands, and synthetic mulches compared to wheat straw and unmulched controls. Soil plant-available nitrogen decreased over time with little difference among treatments. Understory plant cover increased over time, but there were no mulch effects on total or native plant cover. Non-native understory species were not abundant, although non-native cover was significantly higher with wheat straw applied at low and high rates and with the high rate wood strand treatment compared to unmulched control. Our preliminary findings four-years post-fire indicate wood mulches can accelerate lodgepole pine establishment following wildfire, but facilitation of non-native plant establishment may be a concern.
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