Perpetuating old ponderosa pine

T. E. Kolb, J. K. Agee, P. Z. Fulé, N. G. McDowell, K. Pearson, A. Sala, R. H. Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


We review current knowledge about the use of management treatments to reduce human-induced threats to old ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) trees. We address the following questions: Are fire-induced damage and mortality greater in old than younger trees? Can management treatments ameliorate the detrimental effects of fire, competition-induced stress, and drought on old trees? Can management increase resistance of old trees to bark beetles? We offer the following recommendations for the use of thinning and burning treatments in old-growth ponderosa pine forests. Treatments should be focused on high-value stands where fire exclusion has increased fuels and competition and where detrimental effects of disturbance during harvesting can be minimized. Fuels should be reduced in the vicinity of old trees prior to prescribed burns to reduce fire intensity, as old trees are often more prone to dying after burning than younger trees. Raking the forest floor beneath old trees prior to burning may not only reduce damage from smoldering combustion under certain conditions but also increase fine-root mortality. Thinning of neighboring trees often increases water and carbon uptake of old trees within 1 year of treatment, and increases radial growth within several years to two decades after treatment. However, stimulation of growth of old trees by thinning can be negated by severe drought. Evidence from young trees suggests that management treatments that cause large increases in carbon allocation to radial xylem growth also increase carbon allocation to constitutive resin defenses against bark beetle attacks, but evidence for old trees is scarce. Prescribed, low-intensity burning may attract bark beetles and increase mortality of old trees from beetle attacks despite a stimulation of bole resin production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-157
Number of pages17
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 30 2007


  • Bark beetle
  • Fire
  • Forest management
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • Prescribed burn
  • Restoration
  • Thinning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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