The Effect of Large Fire on Aspen Recruitment

Proposed by: Trent Wilde

Presenter: Wilde, T., Agricultural Extension Agent, Utah State University Extension, Fillmore, UT 84631

Aspen is an important part of our forests in the western U.S. In contrast to conifers, aspen stands have a diverse understory of vegetation beneficial to wildlife and numerous other organisms. Fire is important to aspen, because fire is the catalyst which initiates new aspen growth. Due to the fire suppression strategies of the last century, many aspen stands have become overgrown with conifers choking out the aspen. Most efforts to restore fire to the landscape have been limited to small treatment areas. Wildlife and cattle are attracted to burn areas because of the lush, palatable vegetation which is initiated after a fire. The 2000 Oldroyd Fire- a 1329 acre managed fire in central Utah, experienced complete clone failure (no aspen recruitment) due to grazing. It was hypothesized that larger treatment areas would lower grazing pressure on vulnerable aspen shoots resulting in better aspen recruitment. Aspen recruitment areas on the 1996 Pole Creek Fire- a 7113 acre wildfire twenty miles west of the Oldroyd Fire, were identified and mapped on the ground using GPS technology. Geographic information system software was used to identify and quantify potential aspen recruitment areas through the use of pre-fire aerial photography. The resulting data revealed that 71% of the potential aspen recruitment area of the large fire had achieved aspen recruitment. These results indicate a significant correlation between larger disturbance areas and increased aspen recruitment.

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