, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 161-174

Middle and high elevation coniferous forest communities of the North Rim region of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

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Abstract

We examined the composition and structure of forest communities in a 3700 ha watershed in relation to environmental gradients and changes in land management practices. We identified four mixed-conifer forest types dominated by different combinations of Abies concolor, Picea pungens, Pinus ponderosa, Populus tremuloides, and Pseudotsuga menziesii, and a spruce-fir type dominated by Picea engelmannii and Abies lasiocarpa. The forest types occur in a complex pattern related to elevation and topographicmoisture gradients and variations in past fire regimes. However, widespread regeneration of A. concolor following possible changes in the fire regime in the late 19th century and continuing with institution of a fire suppression policy early in the 20th century is producing a more homogenous mixed-conifer forest with greater horizontal and vertical continuity of fuel. This shift toward landscape homogeneity not only may adversely affect biodiversity, but also may be perpetuated as the probability of large, high-severity fires increases with continued fire suppression.