Seven-Year Results of Thinning and Burning Restoration Treatments on Old Ponderosa Pines at the Gus Pearson Natural Area

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Abstract

AbstractWe examined the 7-year effects of three restoration treatments on leaf physiology and insect-resistance characteristics of pre-settlement age ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws.) at the Gus Pearson Natural Area (GPNA) in northern Arizona. Restoration treatments were: (1) thinned in 1993 to approximate pre-Euro-American settlement stand structure, (2) thinned plus prescribed burned in 1994 and 1998, and (3) untreated control. Tree physiological and insect-resistance characteristics were measured in year 2000, 7 years after thinning, using the same procedures as an earlier study performed in 1996. Consistent with the 1996 results, pre-dawn water potential in 2000 was consistently lower in the control than both thinned treatments. Both thinned treatments continued to have increased foliar nitrogen concentration in leaves 7 years after treatment. However lower leaf nitrogen concentration in the thinned and burned compared with the thinned treatment suggests lower nitrogen availability to trees in repeatedly burned plots. Analysis of leaf gas exchange characteristics and carbon isotope content (δ13C) suggests continued stimulation of photosynthesis by both thinning treatments. Differences among treatments in resin volume, a measure of bark beetle resistance, depended on season of measurement. Trees in both thinning treatments continued to have increased leaf toughness, a measure of resistance to insect folivores. Our results show that many beneficial effects of restoration treatments on carbon, water, and nitrogen relations and insect-resistance characteristics of pre-settlement ponderosa pines continue to be expressed 7 years after treatment at the GPNA.

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