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Water and Nutrient Outflow Following the Ecological Restoration of a Ponderosa Pine-Bunchgrass Ecosystem

Authors

  • Jason P. Kaye,

    1. College of Ecosystem Science and Management, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, U.S.A.
    2. Current Address: Department of Forest Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, U.S.A.
    3. Address correspondence to J. P. Kaye, email
      jkaye@lamar.colostate.edu
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  • Stephen C. Hart,

    1. College of Ecosystem Science and Management, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, U.S.A.
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  • Richard C. Cobb,

    1. College of Ecosystem Science and Management, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, U.S.A.
    2. Current Address: Department of Ecosystem Science, University of Maine at Orono, Nutting Hall, Orono, ME 04469–5755, U.S.A.
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  • Joseph E. Stone

    1. College of Ecosystem Science and Management, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, U.S.A.
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Abstract

In the late 1800s, fire suppression, livestock grazing, and a wet and warm climate led to an irruption of pine regeneration in Pinus ponderosa Laws. (ponderosa pine) forests of the southwestern United States. Pines invaded bunchgrass openings, causing stand structure changes that increased the number of stand-replacing fires. Ecological restoration, via thinning and prescribed burning, is being used to decrease the risk of stand-replacing fires and ameliorate other effects of pine invasion. The effects of aboveground restoration on belowground processes are poorly understood. We used a hydrologic model and soil water nutrient concentrations, measured monthly below the rooting zone, to estimate restoration effects on nutrient losses by leaching from a mature ponderosa pine forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Replicated restoration treatments included thinning to pre-1880 stand densities (partial restoration), thinning plus forest floor fuel reduction followed by a prescribed burn (complete restoration), and an untreated control. Water outflow occurred only between January and May and was lowest from the control (47 and 28 mm in 1995 and 1996) and highest from the partial restoration treatment (67 and 59 mm in 1995 and 1996). The concentrations (typically <0.10 mg/ L) and estimated annual losses (<0.02 kg/ha) of NH4+-N, PO43-P, and organic P were similar among treatments. Nitrate and organic N concentrations were as high as 0.80 mg N/L; however, these concentrations and estimated annual losses (<0.13 kg N/ha) were similar among treatments. Our results suggest that restoration will not enhance nutrient loss by leaching or alter stream chemistry in ponderosa pine forests.

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