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The role of old-growth forests in frequent-fire landscapes

Binkley, Daniel and Sisk, Tom and Chambers, Carol and Springer, Judy and Block, William (2007) The role of old-growth forests in frequent-fire landscapes. Ecology and Society, 12 (2). ISSN 1708-3087


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Classic ecological concepts and forestry language regarding old growth are not well suited to frequent-fire landscapes. In frequent-fire, old-growth landscapes, there is a symbiotic relationship between the trees, the understory graminoids, and fire that results in a healthy ecosystem. Patches of old growth interspersed with younger growth and open, grassy areas provide a wide variety of habitats for animals, and have a higher level of biodiversity. Fire suppression is detrimental to these forests, and eventually destroys all old growth. The reintroduction of fire into degraded frequent-fire, old-growth forests, accompanied by appropriate thinning, can restore a balance to these ecosystems. Several areas require further research and study: 1) the ability of the understory to respond to restoration treatments, 2) the rate of ecosystem recovery following wildfires whose level of severity is beyond the historic or natural range of variation, 3) the effects of climate change, and 4) the role of the microbial community. In addition, it is important to recognize that much of our knowledge about these old-growth systems comes from a few frequent-fire forest types.

Item Type: Article
Publisher’s Statement: Copyright © 2007 by the author(s).
Keywords: Afforestation; Agriculture; Droughts; ecological processes; Ecological restoration; ectomycorrhizal fungal community; Environmental policy; evolutionary adaptations; fine-root biomass; Forests & forestry; Government policy; grand-canyon; historic range of variation (HRV); historic range of variation (HRV); human values; knowledge gaps; Landscapes; mycorrhizal fungi; Natural disasters; Natural resources; northern Arizona; resilience; restoration treatments; southwestern ponderosa pine; tassel-eared squirrels; Tree crops; Understory vegetation; understory vegetation; USA
Subjects: S Agriculture > SD Forestry
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Faculty/Staff
Department/Unit: Research Centers > Ecological Restoration Institute
College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Science > School of Forestry
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2015 19:43
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/659

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