Tree mortality, fire scar formation and regeneration 8 years after low-intensity fire in managed Pinus sylvestris stands

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Title: Tree mortality, fire scar formation and regeneration 8 years after low-intensity fire in managed Pinus sylvestris stands
Author: Piha, Aura
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Maatalous-metsätieteellinen tiedekunta, Metsätieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Forest Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Agrikultur- och forstvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för skogsvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2011
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Skogsekologi
Forest Ecology
Abstract: Fire is an important driver of the boreal forest ecosystem, and a useful tool for the restoration of degraded forests. However, we lack knowledge on the ecological processes initiated by prescribed fires, and whether they bring about the desired restoration effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impacts of low-intensity experimental prescribed fires on four ecological processes in young commercial Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) stands eight years after the burning. The processes of interest were tree mortality, dead wood creation, regeneration and fire scar formation. These were inventoried in twelve study plots, which were 30 m x 30 m in size. The plots belonged to two different stand age classes: 30-35 years or 45 years old at the time of burning. The study was partly a follow-up of study plots researched by Sidoroff et al. (2007) one year after burning in 2003. Tree mortality increased from 183 stems ha-1 in 2003 to 259 stems ha-1 in 2010, corresponding to 15 % and 21 % of stem number respectively. Most mortality was experienced in the stands of the younger age class, in smaller diameter classes and among species other than Scots pine. By 2010, the average mortality of Scots pine per plot was 18%, but varied greatly ranging from 0% to 63% of stem number. Delayed mortality, i.e. mortality that occurred between 2 and 8 years after fire, seemed to become more important with increasing diameter. The input of dead wood also varied greatly between plots, from none to 72 m3 ha-1, averaging at 12 m3 ha-1. The amount of fire scarred trees per plot ranged from none to 20 %. Four out of twelve plots (43 %) did not have any fire scars. Scars were on average small: 95% of scars were less than 4 cm in width, and 75% less than 40 cm in length. Owing to the light nature of the fire, the remaining overstorey and thick organic layer, regeneration was poor overall. The abundance of pine and other seedlings indicated a viable seed source existed, but the seedlings failed to establish under dense canopy. The number of saplings ranged from 0 to 12 333 stems ha-1. The results of this study indicate that a low intensity fire does not necessarily initiate the ecological processes of tree mortality, dead wood creation and regeneration in the desired scale. Fire scars, which form the basis of fire dating in fire history studies, did not form in all cases.
Subject: prescribed fire
tree mortality
dead wood
fire scar
Pinus sylvestris

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