Dry mixed-conifer forests in the Southwest occupy an important ecological and hydrological role in upper watersheds. In the absence of reoccurring fire and silvicultural treatments over the last 50 years, we quantified forest structure and composition on prevailing north and south aspects of a dry mixed-conifer forest in southcentral New Mexico using mixed models and ordination analysis in preparation for an experiment in ecological restoration. Results indicated overstory and midstory were dominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii
) and shade tolerant/fire intolerant white fir (Abies concolor
) with interspersed mature aspen on north aspects, and Douglas-fir and Southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis
) on south aspects. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa
), which was historically co-dominant with Douglas-fir on north and south aspects, was subdominant on south aspects and almost entirely absent on north aspects. Regeneration was dominated by white fir saplings and seedlings on north aspects while ponderosa pine was completely absent. South aspect saplings and seedlings were characterized by Douglas-fir and Southwestern white pine, but almost no ponderosa pine. Ordination analysis characterized the effect of aspect on species composition. Understanding contemporary forest structure and composition is important when planning for desired future conditions that are to be achieved through ecological restoration using silvicultural techniques designed to foster resilience.
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