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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Phillip J. van Mantgem; Nathan L. Stephenson; Eric E. Knapp; John J. Battles; Jon E. Keeley
Publication Date: 2011

The capacity of prescribed fire to restore forest conditions is often judged by changes in forest structure within a few years following burning. However, prescribed fire might have longer-term effects on forest structure, potentially changing treatment assessments. We examined annual changes in forest structure in five 1 ha old-growth plots immediately before prescribed fire and up to eight years after fire at Sequoia National Park, California. Fire-induced declines in stem density (67% average decrease at eight years post-fire) were nonlinear, taking up to eight years to reach a presumed asymptote. Declines in live stem biomass were also nonlinear, but smaller in magnitude (32% average decrease at eight years post-fire) as most large trees survived the fires. The preferential survival of large trees following fire resulted in significant shifts in stem diameter distributions. Mortality rates remained significantly above background rates up to six years after the fires. Prescribed fire did not have a large influence on the representation of dominant species. Fire-caused mortality appeared to be spatially random, and therefore did not generally alter heterogeneous tree spatial patterns. Our results suggest that prescribed fire can bring about substantial changes to forest structure in old-growth mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada, but that long-term observations are needed to fully describe some measures of fire effects.

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Citation: van Mantgem, Phillip J.; Stephenson, Nathan L.; Knapp, Eric; Battles, John; Keeley, Jon E. 2011. Long-term effects of prescribed fire on mixed conifer forest structure in the Sierra Nevada, California. Forest Ecology and Management 261(6):989-994.

Cataloging Information

Partner Sites:
  • biomass
  • coniferous forests
  • diameter classes
  • fire exclusion
  • fire hazard reduction
  • fire injuries (plants)
  • fire management
  • forest management
  • forest restoration
  • forest structure
  • fuel loading
  • fuel reduction treatments
  • mixed conifer forest
  • mortality
  • national parks
  • old growth forests
  • population density
  • post-fire recovery
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Sierra Nevada
  • size classes
  • spatial pattern
  • stem density
  • tree mortality
Tall Timbers Record Number: 26065Location Status: Not in fileCall Number: Not in FileAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 49637

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.
This document is part of the Southwest FireCLIME Annotated Bibliography, which includes published research related to the interactions between climate change, wildfire, and subsequent ecosystem effects in the southwestern U.S. The publications contained in the Bibliography have each been summarized to distill the outcomes as they pertain to fire and climate. Go to this document's record in the Southwest FireCLIME Annotated Bibliography.