Historical stand-replacing fire in upper montane forests of the Madrean Sky Islands and Mogollon Plateau, Southwestern USA

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The recent occurrence of large fires with a substantial stand-replacing component in the southwestern United States (e.g., Cerro Grande, 2000; Rodeo-Chedeski, 2002; Aspen, 2003; Horseshoe 2, Las Conchas, and Wallow, 2011) has raised questions about the historical role of stand-replacing fire in the region. We reconstructed fire dates and stand-replacing fire patch sizes using four lines of tree-ring evidence at four upper montane forest sites (>2600 m) in the Madrean Sky Islands and Mogollon Plateau of Arizona and New Mexico, USA. The four lines of tree-ring evidence include: (1) quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and spruce-fir age structure, (2) conifer death dates, (3) traumatic resin ducts and ring-width changes, and (4) conifer fire scars. Pre-1905 fire regimes in the upper montane forest sites were variable, with drier, south-facing portions of some sites recording frequent, low-severity fire (mean fire interval of all fires ranging from 5 yr to 11 yr among sites), others burning with stand-replacing severity, and others with no evidence of fire for >300 yr. Reconstructed fires at three of the four sites (Pinaleño Mountains, San Francisco Peaks, and Gila Wilderness) had stand-replacing fire patches >200 ha, with maximum patch sizes ranging from 286 ha in mixed conifer-aspen forests to 521 ha in spruce-fir forests. These data suggest that recent stand-replacing fire patches as large as 200 ha to 500 ha burning in upper elevation (>2600 m) mixed conifer-aspen and spruce-fir forests may be within the historical range of variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-107
Number of pages20
JournalFire Ecology
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

Fingerprint

montane forest
montane forests
plateaus
plateau
conifers
Abies
coniferous tree
Picea
Populus tremuloides
growth rings
patch size
tree ring
fire scars
resin canals
fire severity
wilderness
Southwestern United States
fire regime
age structure
mountains

Keywords

  • Fire history
  • Mixed conifer
  • Quaking aspen
  • Spruce-fir
  • Tree ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Forestry

Cite this

Historical stand-replacing fire in upper montane forests of the Madrean Sky Islands and Mogollon Plateau, Southwestern USA. / Margolis, Ellis Q.; Swetnam, Thomas; Allen, Craig D.

In: Fire Ecology, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2011, p. 88-107.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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