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

Canadian Journal of Forest Research
By: , and 



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.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A stand-replacing fire history in upper montane forests of the southern Rocky Mountains
Series title Canadian Journal of Forest Research
DOI 10.1139/X07-079
Volume 37
Issue 11
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher NRC Research Press
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 2227
Last page 2241
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