Fires create and consume snags (standing dead trees), an important structural and ecological component of ponderosa pine forests. The effects of repeated fires on snag densities in ponderosa pine forests of the southwestern USA have not been studied. Line intercept sampling was used to estimate snag densities in areas of the Gila Wilderness that had burned one to three times under Wildland Fire Use for Resource Benefit (WFU), a fire management policy implemented since 1974 aimed at restoring natural fire regimes. Twenty randomly located transects were measured in areas burned since 1946; six in once-burned areas, six in twice-burned areas and eight in thrice-burned areas. The mean density ?? standard errors of large (>47.5 cm dbh) snags for areas that burned once, twice and thrice was 7.0 ?? 2.7, 4.4 ?? 1.1 and 4.1 ?? 1.3 snags/ha, respectively. Differences in snag densities between once- and multiple-burned areas were significant (F-test; p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in density of large snags between twice- and thrice-burned areas. Proportions of type 1 snags (recently created) were higher in once- and twice-burned areas than in areas that burned three times, likely reflecting high tree mortality and snag recruitment resulting from an initial entry fire. Type 3 snags (charred by previous fire) were more abundant in areas that burned multiple times. The lack of differences in snag densities between areas that burned two and three times suggests that repeated fires leave many snags standing. The increasing proportion of type 3 snags with repeated fires supports this conclusion. ?? 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Ponderosa pine snag densities following multiple fires in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico