In recent years, warming climate and increased fire activity have raised concern about post-fire recovery of western U.S. forests. We assessed relationships between climate variability and tree establishment after fire in dry ponderosa pine forests of the Colorado Front Range. We harvested and aged over 400 post-fire juvenile ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees using an improved tree-ring based approach that yielded annually-resolved dates and then assessed relationships between climate variability and pulses of tree establishment. We found that tree establishment was largely concentrated in years of above-average moisture availability in the growing season, including higher amounts of precipitation and more positive values of the Palmer Drought Severity Index. Under continued climate change, drier conditions associated with warming temperatures may limit forest recovery after fire, which could result in lower stand densities or shifts to non-forested vegetation in some areas.
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Rother, Monica T. and Veblen, Thomas T., "Climate Drives Episodic Conifer Establishment after Fire in Dry Ponderosa Pine Forests of the Colorado Front Range, USA" (2017). Geography Faculty Contributions. 19.