Novus participant Brian Harvey (University of Colorado) and colleagues recently published a study on seedling establishment following fire disturbance in subalpine forests of the Rocky Mountains. Post-fire seedling establishment is an important metric in assessing forest resilience to fire, and increased fire activity in subalpine forests is expected to alter seedling establishment through reduced seed viability after high-intensity stand-replacing fires and reduce seedling survival due to post-fire drought. The authors found that across all species, seedling establishment was reduced with higher post-fire drought severity and with greater distance to seed sources outside the burn area. The degree of response varied greatly between species. For example, Pinus contorta (which is serotinous) showed no response to either post-fire drought or distance to seed sources. These results suggest that future fire and climate scenarios may alter subalpine forest composition and structure.
Harvey, BJ, DC Donato, MG Turner (2016) High and dry: post-fire tree seedling establishment in subalpine forests decreases with post-fire drought and large stand-replacing burn patches. Global Ecology and Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/geb.12443