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Monitoring Landscape-Scale Ponderosa Pine Restoration Treatment Implementation and Effectiveness

Authors

  • John P. Roccaforte,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.
      J. P. Roccaforte, email john.roccaforte@nau.edu
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  • Peter Z. Fulé,

    1. Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.
    2. School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.
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  • W. Wallace Covington

    1. Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.
    2. School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.
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J. P. Roccaforte, email john.roccaforte@nau.edu

Abstract

We evaluated landscape-scale forest restoration treatment implementation and effectiveness in meeting objectives in a ponderosa pine forest at Mt. Trumbull, Arizona, U.S.A. The goal of the project was to alter forest structure by thinning and burning to more closely resemble forest conditions prior to Euro-American settlement in 1870. We measured 117 permanent plots before (1996/1997) and after (2003) treatments. The plots were evenly distributed across the landscape (approximately 1,200 ha), about half of which was an untreated control. We evaluated treatment implementation and effectiveness based on 1870 structure and/or goals outlined by managers. The success of treatment implementation varied: about 94% of the area originally planned for restoration was treated in some manner by 2003, but only 70% received the full planned treatment (thin and burn). Although density of ponderosa pines >2.5 cm was reduced significantly by 66% from approximately 429 pines/ha to approximately 146 pines/ha in the treated area, the targeted residual density was exceeded by 111–256% (all plots) or 10–85% (thinned and burned plots). Thirteen percent of the pre-settlement pines died in the treated area by 2003, but 9% percent also died in the control, indicating that pre-settlement pines in untreated areas were nearly as vulnerable as those exposed to restoration treatments. Large snags increased 45%, and 65% of logs >50 cm were retained, achieving implementation goals. Although restoration treatments were not implemented totally to specifications, they were effective in attaining the overall project goal of restoring more open forest structure while preserving more than 75% of the pre-settlement pines. Canopy fuel loads were substantially reduced, allowing for the reintroduction of surface fires.

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