Age effects on seed productivity in northern black spruce forests (Picea mariana)
Viglas, Jayme Nicole
Climate change is predicted to increase rates of fire activity in boreal forests. A shortened fire return interval may result in different outcomes of community structure in the northern boreal forest, since the age of a forest influences seed production and potential post-fire regeneration. With two closely timed fires, dominant boreal conifers such as black spruce (Picea mariana) may be vulnerable to regeneration failures after fire because of the long time required to reach reproductive maturity. I report on the relationship between stand age and seed productivity of black spruce in northern Yukon Territory and central Alaska. I used fire history maps to select sites of various stand ages, including stand ages that would occur in a short fire return interval (less than 80 years) versus longer fire intervals (up to 200 years). At each site, I measured stand density and basal area using the point-center-quarter method. Ten black spruce trees were randomly selected for cone surveys and age analysis. I also selected a subset of five trees for detailed analyses of cone and seed production within yearly cohorts. The results of this study illustrate the strong relationships between stand age and stand basal area with cone and seed production of northern black spruce. The resulting equations can be used to predict the seed capacity and regeneration potential of black spruce stands with known stand basal area or stand age. I estimate, along with the number of seeds required to produce a two year old black spruce seedling on high quality seedbeds, stands burned at an age less than 50 years will likely have reduced black spruce post-fire density. On low quality seedbeds, black spruce forests are more vulnerable to regeneration failures and fire cycles less than 150 years are likely to result in reduced recruitment. Under a shortened fire return interval these northern black spruce forests are likely to have reduced post-fire density.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeWilson, Ken; Johnston, Mark; McLoughlin, Philip; Lamb, Eric
Copyright DateApril 2011
fire return interval