Limits to ponderosa pine regeneration following large high-severity forest fires in the United States southwest
The authors looked at large patches of high severity, stand-replacing fire in ponderosa pine ecosystems along a gradient of topography and climate as a stand-in for climate variability to understand the likelihood of regeneration due to topography, climate, drought, and distance to seed source. They selected fires that burned between 1996 and 2006 as this period of time was particularly dry across the Southwest.
The authors found that distance to seed source was the most important predictor of ponderosa pine regeneration after high severity fire in this study, although, climate also was significant, suggesting that areas that are more affected by drought-stress are less likely to regenerate naturally or regenerate slowly. Combined with future climate change, large patches of high severity fire may not regenerate to forest stands for decades to centuries or may shift toward novel ecosystems such as herbaceous and/or shrub- and grass- dominated communities.