Working Paper 28: Southwestern Mixed-Conifer Forests: Evaluating Reference Conditions to Guide Ecological Restoration Treatments

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Mixed-conifer forests of the Southwest are variable and complex, covering approximately 2.5-million acres scattered across the region (Dieterich 1983, Korb et al. 2013; Figure 1). Mixed-conifer forests containa diverse mix of tree species (Table 1) and typically occur between, but do not include, the lower-elevation warmer, drier ponderosa pine forests and the highest- elevation cooler, wetter spruce-fir forests. 

Because mixed-conifer forests have diverse stand structures, forest composition and disturbance regimes, it is often difficult to generalize about reference conditions and historical fire regimes that can be used to guide management for specific locations. In this working paper, we 1) describe the current knowledge of mixed-conifer historical reference conditions for fire regimes, stand structure, and species composition in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico and adjacent areas); 2) provide field diagnostics to assess reference conditions; and 3) offer land managers restoration- related guidance to promote resilient mixed-conifer forests in the Southwest.

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