This thesis includes two studies: The first examined developmental changes that take place in the physiology of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and to characterize developmental influences on patterns of phenotypic trait variation among different aged ramets within the aspen clones. We surveyed eight clones, each with 8 distinct age classes ranging from 1 to 170 yrs in age. Using regression analysis we examined the relationships between ramet age and expression of functional phenotypes. Eight of the phenotypic traits demonstrated a non-linear relationship in which large changes in phenotype occurred in the early stages of ramet development and stabilized thereafter. Water and nutrient concentration, leaf gas exchange and phenolic glycosides tended to decrease from early to late development, while sucrose and condensed tannin concentrations and water use efficiency increased with ramet age. We hypothesize that ontogenetically derived phenotypic variation leads to fitness differentials among different aged ramets, which may have important implications for clone fitness. Age-related increases in phenotypic diversity may partially underlie aspen's ability as a species to tolerate the large environmental gradients that span its broad geographical range. Fire is an essential component of many forest ecosystems and fire exclusion policies and other anthropogenic factors have significantly altered disturbance regimes, which has lead to increased aspen succession to conifers. The second study examined how post-fire aspen regeneration success is influenced by increasing conifer abundance under longer fire return intervals. 66 sites were selected from the Sanford prescribed fire complex located in the Dixie National Forest. Slope, aspect, sucker regeneration heights, soil samples, and post and prefire stand densities were measured. Results from this study demonstrated that pre-disturbance conifer abundance and aspen densities are good predictors of aspen sucker regeneration success. Results also found that although conifer densities don't change across aspects, aspen densities are different on north facing slopes. We hypothesize the high levels of aspen regeneration came from a large disturbance size which overwhelmed the high levels of herbivores.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





aspen decline, condensed tannins, hydraulic limitation hypothesis, ontogeny, phenolic glycosides, quaking aspen, ramet, aspen, ecology, succession, prescribed burns, post-fire, regeneration