A stand-replacing fire history in upper montane forests of the southern Rocky Mountains

Ellis Q. Margolis, Thomas Swetnam, Craig D. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Dendroecological techniques were applied to reconstruct stand-replacing fire history in upper montane forests in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Fourteen stand-replacing fires were dated to 8 unique fire years (1842-1901) using four lines of evidence at each of 12 sites within the upper Rio Grande Basin. The four lines of evidence were (i) quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) inner-ring dates, (ii) fire-killed conifer bark-ring dates, (iii) tree-ring width changes or other morphological indicators of injury, and (iv) fire scars. The annual precision of dating allowed the identification of synchronous stand-replacing fire years among the sites, and co-occurrence with regional surface fire events previously reconstructed from a network of fire scar collections in lower elevation pine forests across the southwestern United States. Nearly all of the synchronous stand-replacing and surface fire years coincided with severe droughts, because climate variability created regional conditions where stand-replacing fires and surface fires burned across ecosystems. Reconstructed stand-replacing fires that predate substantial Anglo-American settlement in this region provide direct evidence that stand-replacing fires were a feature of high-elevation forests before extensive and intensive land-use practices (e.g., logging, railroad, and mining) began in the late 19th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2227-2241
Number of pages15
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume37
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2007

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fire history
Rocky Mountain region
montane forest
montane forests
history
mountain
fire scars
Populus tremuloides
Southwestern United States
railroads
growth rings
logging
tree ring
coniferous forests
conifers
bark
coniferous tree
land use
drought
basins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science

Cite this

A stand-replacing fire history in upper montane forests of the southern Rocky Mountains. / Margolis, Ellis Q.; Swetnam, Thomas; Allen, Craig D.

In: Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Vol. 37, No. 11, 11.2007, p. 2227-2241.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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