Forest inventories based on field surveys can provide quantitative measures of regeneration such as density and stocking proportion. Understanding regeneration dynamics is a key element that supports silvicultural decision-making processes in sustainable forest management. The objectives of this study were to: 1) describe historical regeneration in ponderosa pine dominated forests by species and height class, 2) find associations of regeneration with overstory, soil, and topography variables, 3) describe contemporary regeneration across various management treatments, and 4) compare differences in regeneration between historical and contemporary forests. The study area, a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosae
Dougl. ex P. and C. Law) dominated forest, is located within the Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest (BMEF) in northeastern California, United States, which was designated as an experimental forest in 1934. We used 1935 and 2018 field surveyed regeneration data containing information about three species—ponderosa pine, incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens
(Torr.) Florin) and white fir (Abies concolor
(Grod. and Glend)—and four height classes: class 1: 0–0.31 m, class 2: 0.31–0.91 m, class 3: 0.91–1.83 m, and class 4: >1.83 m and <8.9 cm diameter at breast height. We used stocking as proxy for regeneration density in this study. We found that historically, stocking in the BMEF was dominated by shade-intolerant ponderosa pine in height classes 2 and 3. Two variables—overstory basal area per hectare (m2
) and available water capacity at 150 cm, which is the amount of water that is available for plants up to a depth of 150 cm from the soil surface—were significantly associated with stocking, and a beta regression model fit was found to have a pseudo-R2
of 0.49. We identified significant differences in contemporary stocking among six management scenarios using a Kruskal–Wallis non-parametric one-way ANOVA. Control compartments had the highest stocking followed by burned compartments. In contemporary forest stands, recent treatments involving a combination of burning and thinning resulted in high stocking in height classes 2 and 3. Overall, the stocking in historical BMEF stands was higher than in contemporary stands and was dominated by ponderosa pine.
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