Collaborative restoration effects on forest structure in ponderosa pine-dominated forests of Colorado
Publication date: 15 September 2018
Source:Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 424
Author(s): Jeffery B. Cannon, Kevin J. Barrett, Benjamin M. Gannon, Robert N. Addington, Mike A. Battaglia, Paula J. Fornwalt, Gregory H. Aplet, Antony S. Cheng, Jeffrey L. Underhill, Jennifer S. Briggs, Peter M. Brown
In response to large, severe wildfires in historically fire-adapted forests in the western US, policy initiatives, such as the USDA Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), seek to increase the pace and scale of ecological restoration. One required component of this program is collaborative adaptive management, in which monitoring data are used to iteratively evaluate and improve future management actions. Here, we assess the success of seven CFLRP treatments, implemented on 2,300 ha during the first three years of the Colorado Front Range Landscape Restoration Initiative (LRI) at achieving desired forest structure by comparing pre- and post-treatment conditions. We also compare post-treatment conditions with reconstructions of historical (ca. 1860) forest conditions to contextualize the magnitude of treatment effects. Restoration projects moved stands toward desired conditions by reducing basal area, tree density, and canopy cover and increasing average tree diameter, large gap cover, and abundance of small- to medium-sized tree groups. Post-treatment stands were similar to historical stands with respect to basal area of ponderosa pine; however, they had higher total tree density and fewer gaps than historical reference conditions, suggesting that restoration prescriptions may be improved with increased flexibility for density reduction of Douglas-fir and increased gap creation. This examination of early CFLRP treatment outcomes as they relate to desired conditions informs potential areas of adjustments to future treatments and provides baseline data to evaluate the evolution of treatments over the program’s lifespan. We also identify and discuss several scientific, social, and logistical constraints to large-scale restoration success and make several recommendations to improve restoration outcomes.
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