Full Citation: Margolis, Ellis Q.; Malevich, Steven B. 2016. Historical dominance of low-severity fire in dry and wet mixed-conifer forest habitats of the endangered terrestrial Jemez mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus). Forest Ecology and Management 375:12-26.
External Identifier(s): 10.1016/j.foreco.2016.05.011 Digital Object Identifier
Location: Near Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, U.S.
Ecosystem types: The sites were stratified by elevation/vegetation type as dry- or wet-mixed conifer based on the inclusion of ponderosa pine trees within the stand.
Southwest FireCLIME Keywords: None
FRAMES Keywords: fire hazard reduction, fire intensity, fire regimes, wildfires, New Mexico, salamanders, stand characteristics, threatened and endangered species (animals), fire management, forest management, Plethodon neomexicanus, coniferous forests, dendroecology, Douglas-fir, fire-climate relationships, mixed-severity fire regime, endangered species, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Jemez Mountains salamander

Historical dominance of low-severity fire in dry and wet mixed-conifer forest habitats of the endangered terrestrial Jemez Mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus)

Ellis Q. Margolis, Steven B. Malevich


Summary - what did the authors do and why?

The authors reconstructed the historical stand structure and fire regimes along a gradient of ponderosa pine to wet mixed-conifer and aspen stands within the habitat of the endangered Jemez Mountains salamander. They further related the variability of climate to the historic fire regime.


Publication findings:

The historical fire frequency of the study area ranged from 10-42 years mean fire return interval (MFRI). The authors found that mixed-conifer ecosystems are drought-limited, not fuel limited; therefore, they do not require prior wet years to build up fuels before burning, but instead will burn when fuel moistures are low. They also found that fire severity was significantly related to drought severity.

Recent events such as the 2011 Las Conchas Fire contain high-severity patches across multiple vegetation types, including ponderosa pine, that are many times larger than occurred in recent centuries. Furthermore, the authors suggest that projected increases in forest drought stress will likely lead to more intense and severe fires in the future, especially combined with high fuel densities, the legacy of a century of fire suppression.

Climate and Fire Linkages

The authors found that mixed-conifer ecosystems are drought-limited, not fuel limited; therefore, they do not require prior wet years to build up fuels before burning, but instead will burn when fuel moistures are low.

The authors found that mixed-conifer ecosystems are drought-limited, not fuel limited; therefore, they do not require prior wet years to build up fuels before burning, but instead will burn when fuel moistures are low.

The authors found that fire severity was significantly related to drought severity. They suggest that projected increases in forest drought stress will likely lead to more intense and severe fires in the future, especially combined with high fuel densities, the legacy of a century of fire suppression.