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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Joseph L. Crockett; Matthew D. Hurteau
Publication Date: 2022

Climate change and fire exclusion have increased the flammability of western United States forests, leading to forest cover loss when wildfires occur under severe weather conditions. Increasingly large high-severity burn patches limit natural regeneration because of dispersal distance, increasing the chance of conversion to non-forest. Post-fire planting can overcome dispersal limitations, yet warmer and drier post-fire conditions can still reduce survival. We examined how two shrub species with different structures affect below-shrub microclimate and survival rates of planted tree seedlings (Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson, Pinus edulis Engelm., Pinus strobiformis Engelm., Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) following a high-severity fire in northern New Mexico. We expected that Gambel oak (Querus gambelii Nutt.), with its denser canopy, would buffer below-shrub climate causing higher survival rates of planted seedlings more than the lower canopy density New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana A. Gray). Seedlings planted under Gambel oak had survival rates 10% to 35% greater than those planted under New Mexico locust. Higher light availability beneath New Mexico locust corresponded to higher temperatures, lower humidity, and higher vapor pressure deficit, impacting the mortality of planted tree seedlings. These results indicate that by waiting for post-fire shrub establishment, selective use of shrubs can buffer microclimate and increase post-fire planting success in the southwestern United States.

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Citation: Crockett, Joseph L.; Hurteau, Matthew D. 2022. Post-fire early successional vegetation buffers surface microclimate and increases survival of planted conifer seedlings in the southwestern United States. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 52(3):416-425.

Cataloging Information

  • New Mexico
  • post-fire recovery
  • regeneration
  • seedling survival
  • tree planting
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Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 65629