Growth Response of Pinus ponderosa following a Mixed-Severity Wildfire in the Black Hills, South Dakota
In late summer 2000 the Jasper Fire burned ~34,000 ha of ponderosa pine forest in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Although regarded as a catastrophic event, the Jasper Fire left a mosaic of fire severity across the landscape, with live trees present in areas burned under low and moderate fire severity. In October 2005, we cored 96 trees from unburned, low-severity, and moderate-severity stands and assessed whether tree growth differed among fire severity classes during the 5 years postfire. We observed no differences in basal area increment (BAI) 10 years prefire among fire severities with BAI averaging 9.6 cm2 per year. Despite severe drought conditions, BAI in moderate severity sites 2 years postfire was 58% greater than in unburned and low-severity stands. Although significant, this growth increase was short-lived. Three, 4, and 5 years postfire, no differences in growth among unburned, low-severity, and moderate-severity sites were detected, as BAI averaged 8.3, 7.5, and 7.0 cm2, respectively. The lack of a consistent and prolonged growth response suggests that the Jasper Fire did not result in any short-term changes in growth patterns. Data extending beyond 5 years postfire are required to infer potential long-term changes in tree growth and productivity.