Date of this Version
Restoration Ecology pp. 1-10, doi: 10.1111/rec.12577.
Populus deltoides is considered to be a weak resprouter and highly susceptible to wildfire, but few post-wildfire studies have tracked P. deltoides response and resprouting within the Great Plains of North America. Following a wildfire in southwestern Kansas, U.S.A., we surveyed burned and unburned areas of a cottonwood riparian forest along the Cimarron River that included a major understory invader, tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb.). We tested the following hypotheses, which are consistent with the current understanding of P. deltoides response to wildfire in the Great Plains: (1) regeneration of P. deltoides will be low in areas burned by the wildfire; (2) the number of dead P. deltoides individuals will be greater in the wildfire than unburned areas; and (3) tamarisk regeneration will be higher than P. deltoides regeneration in the wildfire areas because tamarisk is considered a stronger resprouter. We found evidence contrary to two of our hypotheses 3 years following the wildfire. (1) P. deltoides regeneration was high following the wildfire, averaging 692 individuals/ha. (2) The number of dead mature cottonwood trees was greater in wildfire plots than in unburned plots. (3) There was more P. deltoides regeneration than tamarisk regeneration following wildfire. These findings, which diverge from the majority of studies examining P. deltoides regeneration in the Great Plains, suggest that differing local environmental and forest stand conditions, coupled with the timing and intensity of the fire, could be important determinants of riparian forest species’ responses to wildfire.