The reintroduction of fire to historically fire-prone forests has been repeatedly shown to reduce understory fuels and promote resistance to high severity fire. However, there is concern that prescribed fire may also have unintended consequences, such as high rates of mortality for large trees and fire-tolerant Pinus species. To test this possibility we evaluated mortality patterns for two common genera in the western US, Pinus and Abies, using observations from a national-scale prescribed fire effects monitoring program. Our results show that mortality rates of trees >50 DBH were similar for Pinus (4.6% yr-1) and Abies (4.0% yr-1) 5 years following prescribed fires across seven sites in the southwestern US. In contrast, mortality rates of trees >50 cm DBH differed between Pinus (5.7% yr-1) and Abies (9.0% yr-1). Models of post-fire mortality probabilities suggested statistically significant differences between the genera (after including differences in bark thickness), but accounting for these differences resulted in only small improvements in model classification. Our results do not suggest unusually high post-fire mortality for large trees or for Pinus relative to the other common co-occurring genus, Abies, following prescribed fire in the southwestern US.
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Tree mortality patterns following prescribed fire for Pinus and Abies across the southwestern United States