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Demography and Fire History of a Western Juniper Stand

James A. Young and Raymond A. Evans
Journal of Range Management
Vol. 34, No. 6 (Nov., 1981), pp. 501-506
DOI: 10.2307/3898108
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3898108
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Demography and Fire History of a Western Juniper Stand
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Abstract

The age, density, and fire history of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis Hook.) trees growing on range sites of contrasting potentials were investigated. The 1,000-ha study area consisted of 65% big sagebrush [Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis (Rybd.) Beetle] and 30% low sagebrush (A. arbuscula Nutt.) plant communities. Density of western juniper trees was 150 and 28 trees/ha on the big and low sagebrush sites, respectively. The oldest western juniper found growing in the big sagebrush communities became established in 1855, and 84% of the existing trees became established between 1890 and 1920. The oldest trees on the low sagebrush sites had established by 1600, and most of the existing trees established before 1800. At the beginning of the 20th century, the western juniper populations on big sagebrush sites were doubling in density every 3 years. The rate of establishment on these sites has slowed until 1,370 years would now be required to double the population size. The rate of population growth on low sagebrush sites has varied from decade to decade with a trend to double the population every 200 years and trees that become senescent at about 400 years of age. About 0.4% of western juniper on the low sagebrush sites had fire scars, some of which indicated the occurrence of multiple fires. These fire scars indicated that since 1600 there were periods of up to 90 years when no fires scarred the trees. Changes in the frequency of wildfires appear to be the most logical explanation for the sudden invasion of trees into big sagebrush communities, but current technologies for reconstructing fire chronologies are woefully inadequate in this environment.

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