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Keywords:

  • ecological restoration, edge effects, landscape ecology, light intensity, microclimate, Pinus ponderosa, ponderosa pine, relative humidity, temperature, vapor pressure deficit

Abstract

Restoration of ponderosa pine ecosystems results in altered stand structure, potentially affecting microclimatic conditions and habitat quality for forest organisms. This research focuses on microclimatic changes resulting from forest and landscape structural alterations caused by restoration treatments in southwestern ponderosa pine forests. Three microclimate variables—light intensity, air temperature, and vapor pressure deficit (VPD)—were monitored over two field seasons. Differences in microclimate between the treated forest and the surrounding untreated forest were measured, and microclimatic gradients across the structural edge between these two forest types were quantified. Restoration treatments increased sunlight penetration to the forest floor but did not significantly impact ambient air temperature or VPD. Mean values for air temperature and VPD did not differ significantly between treatments, although temperature and vapor pressure deficit did exhibit a trend in the morning; both variables were higher at the structural edge and in the treated forest during morning hours. Significant edge gradients were detected for air temperature and VPD in the morning and evening, increasing from the structural edge into the untreated forest. Our results show that microclimatic effects of these restoration treatments are generally modest, but the changes are more prominent at specific locations and during certain times of day. Because even modest changes in microclimate have the potential to impact a range of key ecological processes, microclimatic effects should be considered when forest restoration treatments at the landscape scale are being planned and implemented.