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Consequences of recurrent wildfire for the future of California black oak woodlands in Lassen National Forest, California
2:20 PM - 2:40 PM
Tue Nov 28, 2017


Authors: Deborah G. Nemens; J. Morgan Varner; Kathryn R. Kidd; Brian M. Wing

Oak woodlands in the western US have been in decline due to changes in land use and fire exclusion. Lacking fire, oak woodlands are invaded by conifers, resulting in reduced oak vigor, diminished biodiversity, and altered fuels. Restoration of suppressed oaks is possible via resprouting following high severity fires, but impacts of short-interval fires on previously suppressed stands in the early stages of regeneration are unknown. We examined California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) sprout vigor and shifts in species composition across a spectrum of fire severities following two wildfires that burned over approximately the same landscape in 2000 (Storrie Fire) and again in 2012 (Chips Fire) in the Lassen National Forest. Nearly all oaks resprouted following the second fire, and sprout vigor was highest in higher severity strata. A large proportion of sprouts resulting from the Storrie Fire were top-killed in the Chips Fire. Regenerating conifers were eliminated at similar fire severities as those which top-killed resprouting oaks. Wildfire can re-establish the dominance of black oaks in previously suppressed stands via basal sprouting, but the restoration of historic mature oak woodlands may be hindered by continuing conifer encroachment as well as above-ground mortality in reburns in highly altered ecosystems.

Deborah Nemens
Research Scientist, University of Washington

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