Fire history of pinyon-juniper woodlands at upper ecotones with ponderosa pine forests in Arizona and New Mexico

David W. Huffman, Peter Z. Fulé, Kristen M. Pearson, Joseph E. Crouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We used maps of fire evidence, fire scar dendrochronology, forest age-structure analysis, and landscape analysis to investigate fire history at pinyon pine (Pinus edulis Engelm.) - juniper (Juniperus osteosperma (Torr.) Little, Juniperus scopulorum Sarg.) woodland - ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa P. & C. Lawson) forest ecotones in Arizona (Tusayan) and in New Mexico (Canjilon). Results showed that charred trees were not evenly distributed across vegetative communities but were significantly (p < 0.001) more abundant than expected in ponderosa pine communities. Composite fire scar analysis indicated that surface fires occurred in ponderosa pine stands at both sites and burned at intervals of 7.2-11.1 years (WMPI; Weibull median probability interval). At Tusayan, landscape structure was fine grained, and maximum pinyon age was >200 years across 80% of the site. At Canjilon, landscape pattern was relatively coarse, and most pinyon patches were 200-300 years old. Cumulative standing age distributions suggested pinyon-juniper fire rotations of 340 and 290 years at Tusayan and Canjilon, respectively. We concluded the following: (i) surface fires in ponderosa pine stands did not spread through pinyon-juniper communities at either site, (ii) fire evidence was prevalent across both sites, but old pinyon trees indicated that no widespread lethal fires had occurred in the last 300-400 years, and (iii) structurally heterogeneous landscapes suggested that historical pinyon-juniper fires were of limited extent but lethal in patches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2097-2108
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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