Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Thomas Veblen

Second Advisor

William Travis

Third Advisor

Timothy Seastedt

Abstract

Studies of tree regeneration following forest fires along the Colorado Front Range offer valuable insights into how climate change could be influencing conifer seedling establishment statewide. While the relatively hotter and drier conditions observed along the Front Range may not be enough to lethally damage mature trees, there is a strong potential that these novel conditions could prevent the successful establishment of new trees. This study explores variables that influence the establishment of tree species found growing within the 2002 Hayman Fire perimeter. This exploration was carried out through the collection of ~90 fifty-meter transects in the upper montane zone of the burn. Over 30 variables were recorded for each transect, but special attention was given to counts of juvenile and mature trees. The data analysis was carried out through the comparison of species-specific seedling counts with all other variables. Species-specific seedling growth was found to be associated with elevation, distance to seed source, fire severity, slope aspect, and a variety of ground cover variables. For the most part ponderosa pine seedlings were found in higher numbers in quadrats located on south facing slopes that burned at a low severity. Douglas fir seedlings were found in higher numbers in quadrats located on north facing slopes that burned at either low or moderate severities. Aspen seedlings were also found in much higher numbers on north facing slopes, but unlike any other species the aspen seedlings thrived in quadrats that burned at high severities.