Graduation Year

2022

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science – Forestry

School or Department

Forestry and Conservation

Major

Forestry

Faculty Mentor

Kim Davis

Faculty Mentor Department

Systems Ecology

Keywords

wildfire, post-fire regeneration, fire ecology, northern Rockies

Subject Categories

Forest Biology | Forest Management | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Abstract

Wildfire is an importance disturbance that continues to shape the ecosystems of the northern Rockies through varying patterns of frequency and intensity. Due to historical fire suppression and the hotter and drier conditions brought upon by anthropogenic climate change, wildfire frequency and intensity is increasing. These increases will alter vegetation structure and composition, but the degree to which is unknown.

Individual plant traits can offer insight into how these vegetation communities will shift, especially the particular traits that reduce fire-related mortality. To survive wildfires, juvenile northern conifers employ two strategies: increasing their bark thickness and increasing their crown height. To determine which species use which strategies, I measured bark width and tree height for 100 juvenile western larch (Larix occidentalis), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) that established following wildfires. These seedlings were destructively sampled across field sites in the northern Rockies including Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon from areas that burned 5-20 years ago. Using the computer program ImageJ, I measured bark width from images of cross sections at the root-shoot boundary to compare with height data collected in the field. The purpose of this study is to determine what adaptive strategies these species employ, and then identify which species has the highest likelihood of surviving wildfire at the juvenile stage. This study may provide insight into which species land management agencies replant following a fire, or help identify how the ranges of these three conifers will shift with more frequent fire.

Honors College Research Project

Yes

GLI Capstone Project

no

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