Fire regime characteristics were reconstructed from fire-scarred trees in the Tutuaca reserve, a newly designated protected area in the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Chihuahua. The reserve was created to protect thick-billed parrot nesting habitat (large snags) and a relict forest of Chihuahua spruce (Picea chihuahuana Martínez). We collected fire-scarred samples from conifers (Pinus ayacahuite Ehrenb., Pinus durangensis Martínez, and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) in three 25-ha sites arrayed at different watershed positions, from a low site adjacent to the spruce trees up to the watershed divide. Fire analysis periods began in 1702, 1704, or 1761 and continued through the final fire in 1955 (two sites) or 1995. All sites had frequent fire regimes (mean fire interval (MFI) 3.9-5.2 years; MFI for years in which 25% or more of the samples were scarred: 6.9-8.4 years). Almost all fires occurred before cambial growth began or early during the season of cambial growth. Fire years were significantly dry, and the years immediately preceding fire were significantly wet. After 1955, no further fires occurred at two of the three study sites, a pattern similar to that observed elsewhere in northern Mexico. The third site had fires in 1987 and 1995. The extended fire-free period in portions of the Tutuaca landscape may result in fuel accumulation and eventually in severe wildfire. For effective conservation of fire-susceptible habitat features, managers should seek to incorporate surface fire as a management tool.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change