Great Basin Fact Sheet No. 12: Management of Aspen in a Changing Environment
By: Douglas J. Shinneman, Anne S. Halford, Cheri Howell, Kevin D. Krasnow, and Eva K. Strand
This fact sheet provides land managers with information that can help them identify different aspen types, assess the condition of aspen stands, and prioritize stands for restoration using appropriate treatments. The potential for aspen habitat loss may be particularly pronounced in the Great Basin. Aspen is the only broadleaved, deciduous tree species of significant areal extent here, but it occupies only about one percent of this generally arid ecoregion. Although aspen is often considered an early successional species, aspen forms both seral (transitional) and stable (persistent or “pure”) communities. In seral communities, especially those in landscapes with longer-lived conifer species, disturbance plays an important role in the persistence of aspen. Fire, in particular, is critical for aspen renewal in many seral stands, and it can create mosaics of aspen- and conifer-dominated communities that are dynamic across landscapes and over time.
- Aspen communities are biologically rich and ecologically valuable, yet they face myriad threats, including changing climate, altered fire regimes, and excessive browsing by domestic and wild ungulates.
- Recognizing the different types of aspen communities that occur in the Great Basin, and being able to distinguish between seral and stable aspen stands, can help managers better identify restoration needs and objectives.
- Identifying key threats to aspen regeneration and persistence in a given stand or landscape is important to designing restoration plans, and to selecting appropriate treatment types.
- Although some aspen stands will need intensive treatment (e.g., use of fire) to persist or remain healthy, other stands may only require the modification of current management practices (e.g., reducing livestock browsing) or may not require any action at all (e.g., self-replacing stable aspen communities).
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This fact sheet is part of the Great Basin Fact Sheet Series compiled collaboratively by WAFWA, USFS, BLM, NRCS, RMRS, ARS, USGS, and FWS. The series provides land managers with brief summaries of current science concepts and management strategies related to conservation and restoration of the sagebrush sea.