Variability of historical forest structure and fire across ponderosa pine landscapes of the Coconino Plateau and south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Mark A. Williams; William L. Baker
Publication Year: 2013

Cataloging Information

  • Arizona
  • basal area
  • Coconino Plateau
  • coniferous forests
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • fire severity
  • forest management
  • forest reconstruction
  • General Land Office survey
  • GIS - geographic information system
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Juniperus osteosperma
  • land management
  • mixed-severity fire
  • national parks
  • pinon-juniper
  • pinon-juniper woodlands
  • Pinus edulis
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • pinyon pine
  • ponderosa pine
  • population density
  • topography
  • topography
  • tree density
  • Utah juniper
  • wildfires
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Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 29, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 52187
Tall Timbers Record Number: 29255
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

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Annotated Bibliography

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.


We undertook reconstructions of historical ponderosa pine forest structure and fire regimes across an entire landscape to expand understanding of spatial variability in forest structure and dynamics. The study area includes the ponderosa pine forests of the Coconino Plateau, Arizona, USA. Using General Land Office survey data and newly developed methods, we examined surveyor descriptions of overstory and understory composition and structure across 60,998 ha. For 41,214 ha of forests, we reconstructed density, basal area, diameter-class distributions, and fire severity and used GIS to analyse their relationships with topography. Ponderosa pine forests were continuous in only 34% of the 60,998 ha landscape. In 40%, they were mixed with piñon-juniper, 24% was pure piñon-juniper and 2% were grass or shrubs. In ponderosa pine forests, the focus of this study, mean tree density was 144.2 trees ha-1; 18.8% of the landscape had low tree density (<100 trees ha-1) and 17.4% had high tree density (>200 trees ha-1). Small trees (<30 cm d.b.h.) composed >50% of all trees on 47% of the landscape and large trees (>40 cm) composed >50% of all trees on 21% of the landscape. Low-severity fire likely structured the forest on 59% of the landscape while 39% was structured by mixed-severity fire, likely including small, patchy crown fires. Forest parameters displayed wide variability across environmental gradients. Broader-scale reconstructions revealed a much more spatially complex forest that was structured by wide range of fire severities. Variability in ponderosa pine forests was often under-reported in past studies, but is important in perpetuating biological diversity.

Online Link(s):
Williams, Mark A.; Baker, William L. 2013. Variability of historical forest structure and fire across ponderosa pine landscapes of the Coconino Plateau and south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA. Landscape Ecology 28(2):297-310.