, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 215-234
Date: 08 Jan 2014

Variation in post-wildfire regeneration of boreal mixedwood forests: underlying factors and implications for natural disturbance-based management

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To test the direct regeneration hypothesis and support natural disturbance-based forest management we characterized the structure and composition of boreal mixedwood forests regenerating after large wildfires and examined the influence of pre-fire stand composition and post-fire competing vegetation. In stands which had been deciduous (Populus sp.)-dominated, conifer (white spruce)-dominated, or mixed pre-fire we measured regeneration stocking (presence in 10 m2 plots), density and height 10–20 years post-burn in five wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Most plots regenerated to the deciduous or mixed stocking types; plots in the older fire and in stands that were pure conifer pre-fire had higher amounts of conifer regeneration. Surprisingly, regeneration in pre-fire ‘pure’ white spruce stands was most often to pine, although these had not been recorded in the pre-fire inventory. Pre-fire deciduous stands were the most resilient in that poplar species dominated their post-fire regeneration in terms of stocking, density and height. These stands also had the highest diversity of regenerating tree species and the most unstocked plots. High grass cover negatively affected regeneration density of both deciduous and conifer trees. Our results demonstrate the natural occurrence of regeneration gaps, pre- to post-fire changes in forest composition, and high variation in post-fire regeneration composition. These should be taken into consideration when developing goals for post-harvest regeneration mimicking natural disturbance.