Human activities are changing wildfire regimes globally through ignition, spread of invasive species, fire suppression, and climate change. Because of this, ecosystems are experiencing novel fire regimes that may alter plant growth and patterns of succession. Annual growth rings are one metric that can track changes in tree and shrub growth patterns over time in response to changing fire frequency. In Chapter 1 we explored the effects of fire on resprouting native shrubs in the Mojave Desert. Fires are becoming increasingly frequent due to the spread of highly flammable invasive grasses in the region. We monitored growth and fruit production of Larrea tridentata D.C. (creosote bush) on burned and unburned transects from three independent 2005 wildfires. Even though creosote has a high fire mortality rate, we found that resprouting creosote produced 4.7 times the amount of fruit and had stems that grew nearly twice as fast compared to creosote in unburned areas. Our data suggest that creosote can resprout after fire and thrives in its growth rates and reproduction in post-fire environments. In Chapter 2 we used annual Basal Area Increment to investigate how fire suppression has altered facilitation and competition interactions through stages of succession in mixed aspen-conifer forests. We found that aspen had lower growth rates in mixed aspen-conifer stands compared to aspen dominant stands. We also found that aspen growing with an associated fir tree due to facilitation had increasingly lower growth rates over time than those growing independently. Fir trees in mixed stands were facilitated over time by associated aspen trees while fir trees growing in association and independently in aspen stands showed no statistical difference from each other but grew better than independent fir trees in mixed stands. Our data suggest that restoring a more frequent fire regime will balance competitive interactions between aspen and conifer in subalpine forests.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



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creosote bush, dendrochronology, fire ecology, Larrea tridentata, Mojave Desert, fire suppression, basal area increment, Populus tremuloides, Abies lasiocarpa



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Life Sciences Commons