Fire ecology, ponderosa tree rings….counting…..counting

Read an email exchange between Jim and Paul describing their work on tree ring dating big ponderosas and what this predicts about historical fires in the our area. Who can recommend good natural history references for our winter reading?

On Sep 30, 2008, at 1:20 PM, Paul wrote: The fire ecology work must be interesting, Jim.  Seems most of this area was scorched pretty good in the not-to-distant past.  On my property there are  several Ponderosa that are in the 300 year old arena.  I had to remove one old tree where I put my house and it had a large fire scar that dated to around the turn of the last century.  I was at the Forest Service office the other day and noticed they have a huge thick coffee table book for sale that is chock full of the natural history of our area.  For under $60.00, a great buy, and may explain some of what we see around us today.  I wish I would have bought it then, but plan to pick it up as soon as the economy turns around!!  Paul
On Sep 30, 2008, at 2:34 PM, Jim wrote: As for the fire picture here, I’ve an 18-in diameter ponderosathat established itself in the burnt-out base of a fire-killed one; the pith date ~1655! Within the first inch-and-a-half, I counted a century of rings, the pith at ~9 inches. We’ve ponderosas far larger. The largest ponderosa on my lot, cored 8/’07 has an inside ring at ~1750; the inside was punky, so I had to stop. The charred remnants of both ponderosa and juniper suggest a wild fire of several-hundred years ago. The oldest burn I worked in at Mesa Verde was 1873 and the junipers were still standing. So these downed junipers (admittedly not Utah juniper)—and all tend to decay far more slowly than ponderosa—have to have been burned far into the past.  My humble opinion.  Surely historical documents on fires of the last century exist.  Jim
* I see no evidence of false or double rings, as occurs with piñon pine. Missing rings? That, too, highly unlikely.
For more information see: Erdman, James A., 1970, Pinyon-Juniper Succession After Natural Fires on Residual Soils of Mesa Verde, Colorado: Brigham Young University Science Bulletin, Biological Series—Volume XI, Number 2, 26 pp. Jim added: “I’ve even tucked into that report a copy of the Master Chronology for the park that goes back to 1175. “

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