Tree-Ring Reconstructions of Fire and Forest Histories
Tree-ring reconstructions of fire and forest histories provide central evidence of long-term ecological dynamics in forested ecosystems, especially during periods before widespread human impacts such as fire suppression, logging, and grazing. These reconstructions also serve as models of resilient conditions that forest managers and scientists use to justify, guide, and assess ecological restoration efforts. In this talk, I discuss the development, use, and limitations of tree-ring reconstructions and how such data are informing forest restoration efforts using an example from the Front Range in Colorado. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) is a nationwide effort to promote science-based ecological restoration projects on National Forest frequent-fire forest landscapes. CFLRP projects are directed by multi-stakeholder groups who set goals for restoration treatments, assist in project implementation, and provide learning through adaptive monitoring. I will describe the process that the Colorado Front Range CFLRP has gone through in, first, assessing the level of historical data we possessed at the start of the project and, second, supporting a research program to define missing components including stand to landscape forest structural elements (species composition, tree densities and basal areas, and tree to landscape spatial patterns).