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Article

Mixed-Severity Wildfire as a Driver of Vegetation Change in an Arizona Madrean Sky Island System, USA

1
College of the Environment, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459, USA
2
Department of Biology, University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington, ME 04938, USA
3
Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Eva K. Strand
Received: 19 August 2021 / Revised: 13 September 2021 / Accepted: 12 October 2021 / Published: 20 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Wildfire on Biodiversity)
Fire is a powerful natural disturbance influencing vegetation patterns across landscapes. Recent transitions from mixed-species forests to post-fire shrublands after severe wildfire is an increasingly prevalent phenomenon in pine-oak and conifer forest ecosystems in southwestern North America. However, we know little about how variation in fire severity influences other common forest types in the region. In this study, we evaluated fire-induced changes in woody plant community composition and forest structure in Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona in the United States that hosts a diverse set of vegetation types. Cluster analysis of the pre-fire vegetation data identified three dominant pre-fire vegetation types including juniper woodland, piñon forest, and pine-oak forest. All vegetation types experienced significant tree mortality across a wide range of size classes and species, from forests to shrublands. The magnitude of change within sample plots varied with fire severity, which was mediated by topography. Significant shifts in dominance away from coniferous obligate seeder trees to resprouting hardwoods and other shrubs occurred across all vegetation types in response to the fire. Regeneration from seed can be episodic, but projected increases in aridity and fire frequency may promote continued dominance by hardwoods and fire- and drought-resistant shrub communities, which is a regional forest management concern as wildfire size and severity continue to increase throughout the southwestern USA. View Full-Text
Keywords: fire severity; Madrean vegetation; Sky Islands; piñon-juniper woodlands; resprouting; vegetation change; vegetation recovery fire severity; Madrean vegetation; Sky Islands; piñon-juniper woodlands; resprouting; vegetation change; vegetation recovery
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MDPI and ACS Style

Poulos, H.M.; Freiburger, M.R.; Barton, A.M.; Taylor, A.H. Mixed-Severity Wildfire as a Driver of Vegetation Change in an Arizona Madrean Sky Island System, USA. Fire 2021, 4, 78. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040078

AMA Style

Poulos HM, Freiburger MR, Barton AM, Taylor AH. Mixed-Severity Wildfire as a Driver of Vegetation Change in an Arizona Madrean Sky Island System, USA. Fire. 2021; 4(4):78. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040078

Chicago/Turabian Style

Poulos, Helen M., Michael R. Freiburger, Andrew M. Barton, and Alan H. Taylor 2021. "Mixed-Severity Wildfire as a Driver of Vegetation Change in an Arizona Madrean Sky Island System, USA" Fire 4, no. 4: 78. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040078

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