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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Research Highlights: This experiment compares a range of combinations of harvest, prescribed fire, and wildfire. Leveraging a 30-year-old forest management-driven experiment, we explored the recovery of woody species composition, regeneration of the charismatic forest tree species Larix occidentalis Nutt., and vegetation and soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools. Background and Objectives: Initiated in 1967, this experiment intended to explore combinations of habitat type phases and prescribed fire severity toward supporting regeneration of L. occidentalis. At onset of the experiment, a wildfire affected a portion of the 60 research plots, allowing for additional study. Our objective was to better understand silvicultural practices to support L. occidentalis regeneration and to better understand the subsequent impacts of silvicultural practices on C and N pools within the vegetation and soil. Materials and Methods: We categorized disturbance severity based on loss of forest floor depth; 11 categories were defined, including controls for the two habitat type phases involved. We collected abundance, biomass, and C and N concentrations for the herbaceous layer, shrubs, and trees using nested quadrats and 6 to 10 experimental units per disturbance category plot. Moreover, we systematically sampled woody residue from transects, and forest floor, soil wood, and mineral soil with a systematic grid of 16 soil cores per disturbance category plot. Results: We found that (1) disturbance severity affected shrub species richness, diversity, and evenness within habitat type phases; (2) L. occidentalis regenerates when fire is part of the disturbance; (3) N-fixing shrub species were more diverse in the hotter, drier plots; (4) recovery levels of C and N pools within the soil had surpassed or were closer to pre-disturbance levels than pools within the vegetation. Conclusions: We confirm that L. occidentalis regeneration and a diverse suite of understory shrub species can be supported by harvest and prescribed fire, particularly in southern and western aspects. We also conclude that these methods can regenerate L. occidentalis in cooler, moister sites, which may be important as this species’ climate niche shifts with climate change.

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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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