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Forests 2016, 7(10), 225; doi:10.3390/f7100225

Overstory Tree Mortality in Ponderosa Pine and Spruce-Fir Ecosystems Following a Drought in Northern New Mexico

1
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, P.O. Box 6109 SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX 75962, USA
2
Big Bend Ranch State Park-Texas Parks and Wildlife, 1900 Sauceda Ranch Rd., Presidio, TX 79845, USA
3
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Lisa J. Samuelson and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 26 July 2016 / Revised: 21 September 2016 / Accepted: 26 September 2016 / Published: 2 October 2016
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Abstract

Drought-caused tree dieback is an issue around the world as climates change and many areas become dryer and hotter. A drought from 1998–2004 resulted in a significant tree dieback event in many of the wooded areas in portions of the Jemez Mountains and the adjacent Pajarito Plateau in northern New Mexico. The objectives of this study were to evaluate and quantify the differences in tree mortality before and after a recent drought in ponderosa pine and spruce-fir ecosystems, and to assess the effect of mechanical thinning on ponderosa pine mortality. Significant increases in mortality were observed in the unthinned ponderosa pine ecosystem. Mortality varied significantly between species and within size classes. Mechanical thinning of ponderosa pines reduced overstory mortality to non-significant levels. A lack of rainfall, snowfall, and increases in daily minimum temperature contributed most to the mortality. Adaptive management, including the use of thinning activities, appear to moderate the impact of climate change on ponderosa pine forests in this region, increasing the long-term health of the ecosystem. The impact of climate change on the spruce-fir ecosystems may accelerate successional changes. View Full-Text
Keywords: aspen; white fir; Douglas-fir; succession; Jemez Mountains aspen; white fir; Douglas-fir; succession; Jemez Mountains
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Oswald, B.P.; Dugan, S.C.; Balice, R.G.; Unger, D.R. Overstory Tree Mortality in Ponderosa Pine and Spruce-Fir Ecosystems Following a Drought in Northern New Mexico. Forests 2016, 7, 225.

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