Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Patterns of conifer invasion following prescribed fire in grasslands and oak woodlands of Redwood National Park, California.

Abstract

The invasion, or "encroachment", of native conifers commonly occurs in the absence of frequent fire in deciduous woodlands and grasslands of the Pacific Northwest, USA. To effectively target restoration activities, managers require a better understanding of the outcomes of prescribed fire and the spatial patterns of conifer invasions. We examined the duration of prescribed fire effectiveness for managing conifer invasions, as well as multiple site characteristics (including distance to potential seed trees, prescribed fire history, and topographic variables) that influenced conifer invasions following fire in grassland and oak woodland communities in the Bald Hills of Redwood National Park, California. Prescribed fire substantially reduced counts of small conifers (<0.91 m in height), but reinvasion was rapid for sites ≤75 m from the forest edge, returning to pre-fire levels by 2 years post-fire. Following prescribed fires, the presence of conifers was largely determined by the proximity of overstory trees, with more than 95% of conifer seedlings (stems <1.37 m in height) found within 44 m of an overstory conifer. Number of fires and years since the most recent fire were not strongly related to counts of conifer seedlings and density of conifer saplings (stems from 0.1 to 10 cm diameter at breast height, 1.37 m). Our results suggest that in the Bald Hills vulnerability to conifer invasion is principally a function of proximity to seed sources, and the frequent application of prescribed fire or surrogate treatments are needed to prevent conifer seedlings from attaining fire-resistant sizes.