Postfire Succession in an Adirondack Forest
Issue (if applicable)
Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences
Landscape diversity has increased with the surprising postfire establishment of aspen at upper elevations (700–945 meters above sea level) in the High Peaks of Adirondack Park in upstate New York. Tree seedlings returned quickly to the charred slopes west of Noonmark Mountain after an accidental fire consumed the forest in 1999. Aspen stands have replaced the spruce‐fir‐birch forests in the burned area even though mountain paper birch is expected to colonize burned sites at these elevations. Environmental conditions, historical events, and unique circumstances help explain why quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen rather than paper birch blanket the burned mountainside. Climate change over the past century to warmer, wetter conditions may have fostered this marked shift in species composition. In the unburned firebreak that people cleared to contain the flames, pin cherry has regenerated from seeds stored in the soil for nearly a century. The history of pin cherry on the site suggests that large fires or severe windthrow may have been more common in the region than was previously documented.
Ziegler, Susy. 2007. “Postfire Succession in an Adirondack Forest.” Geographical Review 97(4):467–483.