Predicting Douglas-fir Sapling Mortality Following Prescribed Fire in an Encroached Grassland


E. A. Engber, e-mail:


Tree encroachment in fire-maintained woodlands and grasslands is a major management concern, yet little information exists regarding the mechanisms of small tree mortality following prescribed burns. We sought to clarify the relative importance of tree size and fire-induced injury in the post-fire mortality of encroaching Douglas-fir trees and to compare results with an existing mortality model for larger Douglas-fir trees. Crown injury to small Douglas-fir trees was a significant explanatory variable in post-fire mortality models, with results suggesting a 20% threshold in crown scorch. Crown injury was strongly related to bole injury, and delayed mortality was important as we documented new mortality 20 months post-burn. Mortality models for large Douglas-fir tend to over-predict small tree mortality, underscoring the need to better understand the mechanisms of fire-caused mortality for small, encroaching trees.