Building Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptive Capacity: a Systematic Review of Aspen Ecology and Management in the Southwest

Connor D. Crouch, Paul C. Rogers, Margaret M. Moore, Kristen M. Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) has high conservation value on the southwestern edge of its range, which extends from the southwestern United States (i.e., Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) to central Mexico. This value is driven by aspen's ecological importance, positive impact on local economies, and aesthetic and cultural values. Generally, the scant aspen populations that remain in the Southwest lack resilience and adaptive capacity, and managers are unsure how best to maintain the species in an uncertain future. This systematic review seeks to address that need by reviewing existing literature from the Southwest on which biotic and abiotic factors influence aspen forest dynamics and by synthesizing that literature with a discussion of how management can promote aspen ecosystem resilience and adaptive capacity. We found that fire and silvicultural treatments promote aspen regeneration, but chronic ungulate browse inhibits recruitment. Moreover, drought is a driver of overstory mortality and has a negative influence on recruitment. In the second half of this review, we propose three management objectives for increasing aspen resilience and adaptive capacity: (1) promote diversity in age structure, (2) mitigate ungulate impacts, and (3) enhance complexity. We consider how various management strategies could meet these objectives and highlight potential threats to aspen forest health and resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-354
Number of pages21
JournalForest Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • Populus tremuloides
  • Rocky Mountain elk
  • decline
  • ecological silviculture
  • exclosures
  • wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling


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