Seed abscission schedules and the timing of post-fire salvage of Picea mariana and Pinus banksiana.
For aerial seedbank species, the seed abscission schedule following fire is of practical interest as it affects the optimal timing of post-fire salvage operations designed to maximize natural regeneration. It is also of theoretical interest as we would expect that the rapid deterioration of the better (very thin duff or exposed mineral soil) post-fire seedbeds due to leaf-fall from regenerating plants ought to select for rapid dissemination of seeds following burning. Nonetheless, there are no published reports of the abscission schedule of an aerial seedbank species that include the full temporal range from the fire date to several years after. In northwestern Quebec, we used eight burnt, non-salvaged stands, four dominated by black spruce (Picea mariana) and four dominated by jack pine (Pinus banksiana), in three different fires to examine the seed abscission schedule of these aerial seedbank species for the first 3 years after fire. We found that (1) the abscission schedules of populations of each species differed between fires and (2) black spruce dispersed seeds from the cones at a significantly slower rate than jack pine at all fires. Extrapolating from the regressions (all fires lumped), we conclude that approximately 90% of jack pine and black spruce seeds will have been dispersed by 1 and 5 years, respectively, after a fire. Further, we argue that due to its protracted abscission schedule, early post-fire salvage will invariably require that black spruce be planted. The approach adopted here should be useful for optimizing post-fire salvage timing for all commercially valuable species with aerial seedbanks.