Mixed-conifer forests of central Oregon: effects of logging and fire exclusion vary with environment Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/articles/1831cm57s

To the best of our knowledge, one or more authors of this paper were federal employees when contributing to this work. This is the publisher’s final pdf. The published article is copyrighted by the Ecological Society of America and can be found at:  http://www.esajournals.org/loi/ecap. Appendix A and B can be found at:  http://www.esapubs.org/archive/appl/A024/199/

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  • Twentieth-century land management has altered the structure and composition of mixed-conifer forests and decreased their resilience to fire, drought, and insects in many parts of the Interior West. These forests occur across a wide range of environmental settings and historical disturbance regimes, so their response to land management is likely to vary across landscapes and among ecoregions. However, this variation has not been well characterized and hampers the development of appropriate management and restoration plans. We identified mixed-conifer types in central Oregon based on historical structure and composition, and successional trajectories following recent changes in land use, and evaluated how these types were distributed across environmental gradients. We used field data from 171 sites sampled across a range of environmental settings in two subregions: the eastern Cascades and the Ochoco Mountains. We identified four forest types in the eastern Cascades and four analogous types with lower densities in the Ochoco Mountains. All types historically contained ponderosa pine, but differed in the historical and modern proportions of shade-tolerant vs. shade-intolerant tree species. The Persistent Ponderosa Pine and Recent Douglas-fir types occupied relatively hot–dry environments compared to Recent Grand Fir and Persistent Shade Tolerant sites, which occupied warm–moist and cold–wet environments, respectively. Twentieth-century selective harvesting halved the density of large trees, with some variation among forest types. In contrast, the density of small trees doubled or tripled early in the 20th century, probably due to land-use change and a relatively cool, wet climate. Contrary to the common perception that dry ponderosa pine forests are the most highly departed from historical conditions, we found a greater departure in the modern composition of small trees in warm–moist environments than in either hot–dry or cold–wet environments. Furthermore, shade-tolerant trees began infilling earlier in cold–wet than in hot–dry environments and also in topographically shaded sites in the Ochoco Mountains. Our new classification could be used to prioritize management that seeks to restore structure and composition or create resilience in mixed-conifer forests of the region.
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  • Merschel, A. G., Spies, T. A., & Heyerdahl, E. K. (2014). Mixed-conifer forests of central Oregon: Effects of logging and fire exclusion vary with environment. Ecological Applications, 24(7), 1670-1688. doi:10.1890/13-1585.1
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