Intermountain Presettlement Juniper: Distribution, Abundance, and Influence on Postsettlement Expansion
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CitationJohnson, D. D., & Miller, R. F. (2008). Intermountain presettlement juniper: distribution, abundance, and influence on postsettlement expansion. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 61(1), 82-92.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractSuccessful implementation of watershed restoration projects involving control of piñon and juniper requires understanding the spatial extent and role presettlement trees (> 140 yr) play in the ecology of Intermountain West landscapes. This study evaluated the extent, abundance, and spatial pattern of presettlement western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis Hook.) in four woodlands located in southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho. The potential for modeling presence/absence of presettlement juniper using site characteristics was tested with logistic regression and the influence presettlement trees had on postsettlement woodland (trees < 140 yr) expansion was evaluated with a Welch’s t-test. Pre- and postsettlement tree densities, tree ages, site characteristics, and understory vegetation were measured along four 14-27 km transects. Presettlement juniper occurred in 16%-67% of stands in the four woodlands and accounted for 1%-10% of the population of trees > 1 m tall. Presettlement trees were generally widely scattered and more common in lower elevation stands with greater surface rock cover and higher insolate exposure. Presettlement trees sparsely occupied productive sites on deeper soils in southwest Idaho, suggesting the area had sustained a different disturbance regime than southeast Oregon. Southwest Idaho might have experienced a high frequency of lower severity fire that afforded survival to widely distributed legacy trees. This supposition is in contrast to most reports of a disturbance regime including either stand replacement or frequent fire of sufficient intensity to preclude survival of trees to maturity. Stands sustaining presettlement trees initiated woodland expansion 24 yr earlier than stands lacking presettlement trees. Presettlement trees may serve as a seed source potentially reducing the longevity of juniper control treatments. For areas with greater abundances and spatial distribution of presettlement trees such as southwest Idaho, management maintaining low intensity fire or cutting treatments at frequencies of less than 50 yr should sustain relatively open stands.