Quaking Aspen: a Burning Desire in an ‘Asbestos Forest’

Our last speakertoday is Paul Rogers. We have him to thank, chiefly, for lots of the planning that’s gone into the conference thisyear and during the past year, I picture. Paul is the director ofthe Western Aspen Alliance, and he’s an adjunctassociate prof here at Utah State University. Paul’s experiment onlichens in woods has made him around theregion, as well as the globe– in Europe and Australia. And he’s currentlyworking on issues related to wildlife impacts andbenefits to aspen ecosystems. Let’s see. Can you hear me OK? Because I’m goingto move around, hopefully stop you awake. First of all, I acknowledge allof you who stood this long. I was going to hide somemoney under a few sits, just for those who remained later. And I may stillhave, so make sure you check all theseats before you leave. I’m going to jumpright into it– Quaking Aspen: a BurningDesire in an’ Asbestos Forest .’ How many have heard this term– an asbestos forest? Half or more of you. So there’s a littleschizophrenia going on with this genus, and I hopeto unravel that a little for you.My co-author, KevinKrasnow, was here yesterday. He had to return toTeton Science School to school a class. And I’ll get intothe burning desire closely near the end of theshow, so don’t go anywhere. I’m going to try over here. So you can see this. Already there’s somedifferent things going on on a single burned scenery. This is, by the way, Monroe Mountain, which you’ve heard aboutquite a bit yesterday. Some countries burn with aspen. Some don’t. Some are mixedwith other things. So we have a variety ofthings happening there. Here’s where I’mheaded in this talk– why should we care? That’ll be short andsweet because you’ve heard that a million times.But we need to cover that tolay a basis for some people who are not familiar with this. I want to talk about changingparadigms in aspen parishes. That’s very important. There’s a lot of recentresearch going on. One of the main duties ofthe Western Aspen Alliance is to get that informationout to land overseers, decision makers, and researchers. I’m going to focus in onfunctional and fuel types– more fire types– forthis talk, and then end with sort of ahodgepodge of things revolve around the topicof resilience or control. And giving up thepunch line, this is my version of resilience, and it’s about accommodating. As soul mentioned yesterday, both parties and science and management adapting. So these are some of the papersthat I’m going to be dependent on– primarily thefirst two on top– some of Kevin’s work inCalifornia, a synthesis paper that I didwith some other fire environmentalists a couple years ago. Likewise, there’s functionaltypes and then this ecological importanceof mixed seriousnes fires.You’ve already heard thatterm various kinds of demonized. I’ll just sort ofleave it at that, and I think there’s probablysome good reasons for it. But I envision onceyou read that book, you’ll truly findthat they’re focused in on high-severityfires, predominantly. But I don’t want to pick upthat bailiwick right now. Why should we care? All of these reasons– highbiodiversity, recreation, ocean, fire protection, esthetics, foraging, lumber products.Something I didn’t put uphere in the recreation, precisely, is thatmost ski useds in the US are actually real estate games. They don’t make a lot onskiing, but they sell quality at the cornerstone because the skiresort’s on federal estates. And a lot of thosecommunities involve aspen, and you can barelypick up a ski folder without seeingpictures of aspen. So maintaining thehealth of them, specially around homesand on ski resort property, is an important thing there thatwe’ll probably hear more about.But I visualize I want to changethe tune a little bit. There’s something aboutour professional pride that we have to think aboutas well with aspen ecosystems. I’ve heard a couple of administrators, one exclusively the district Ranger that reigns the districtwhere the Pando Clone is. If you’re notfamiliar with that, it’s thought to be thelargest living thing on Earth. It’s 106 acres androughly 47,000 branches of one individual, one geneticindividual, in Central Utah. And the districtRanger said, I merely don’t want this thingto miscarry on my watch. That’s a entire othertalk, the Pando Clone. But this is anexample from the– I can’t remember the nameof the fuel in Flagstaff– near Flagstaff, Arizona, in which there’s not a lot of vegetationgrowing back. What’s in the foregroundis a lot of Aspen stanches that have beenbrowsed intently in a high-severity burn. What’s in the mid-ground thereis a lot of earth and wood progress that probably couldhave been avoided had there been some healthyregrowth of aspen and all of the species thatdepend on aspen coming in.So that’s animportant thing now. So I mostly have themaxim that we can do better. And I conceive a lot offolks think we can too, but it gets quite complexand interdisciplinary here involving wildlifeforest management– browsing livestock, all ofthese things, recreation, sea all come into play whenwe’re talking about a bigger picture of aspen management. So very quickly, some things that have changed perhaps from yourtraditional aspen management and understanding on theleft to brand-new paradigms that are evolving. I won’t read all those outloud, but I’ll relate a story.I used to work forthe same outfit that the previousspeaker worked for. And I had a bossthere that said, why is everybody soexcited about paradigms. I’m sick of hearingabout paradigms. Paradigms– it’s only $0.20. There’s all this talkabout paradigm modification. And it’s like, OK, yeah, yeah. He actually said that. So some important things here– sex reproduction thoughtrare just 10 several years ago. We’re just– we’ve–it’s just in its infancy, the ecological importance ofsexual reproduction over duration and spatial flakes. So that’s really important. But likewise, there’s manydifferent types of aspen. If you’re managing withone formula for aspen, you’d either clear came coppiceor are trying to burn off aspen, then abide aria here.So things are changing rapidly. And there’s some goodinformation to support that. I most recommend this paperby Jim Long and Karen Mock from here. For those people of asilvicultural exhortation, I had some on the table. They all disappeared, and I’m glad of that. Because it’s reallysomething to get you thinking in a practicalsense, how you might want to do things alittle differently. So precisely this idea ofseedlings on the right and your aspen budding, asexual and sexual reproduction. We have all thesedocumentations of this situation where we witnessed seedlings, mostly on fires. We have oneexception now, which is a very importantexception, where they did a clearcut at an elevation where aspen didn’tpreviously exist. And recently[ AUDIO OUT] there. So that’s sort of an importantfinding that came out there. But then some of theother ones foreground, I spotlit thembecause there’s photos in here of those situations.And Kevin Krasnow’swork in California is highlighted in some ofhis illustrates to follow. But an important thingthere is almost all of these situations[ AUDIO OUT] well understood, or all of them, other than theclear-felled coppice, were seedlings regeneratingin high-pitched strength fervours. So I’m going to sort of stumpa little on the importance of high-intensity firesat a variety of scales. I’m not saying total burnarea, but high ferocity volley is more and more important. This is just a quickie fromKevin’s work in the Sierra Nevada, but notice herethe survival rate wasn’t very good over timebut , nonetheless, they had a lot of seedlingscoming in there. So time a quick terrain review. This is the BridgerTeton National Forest, plus Teton National Park. And precisely to breakthis down, I don’t think this is atypical ofa lot of national forests, but this is one of the largestnational forests in the West. So as two examples, this isthe amount of acres mapped, total acres in aspen.It’s a small percentage butecologically very important. Then the locality burned. As far as they are aware, prettygood records for this forest– since 1931 about 14% of aspen. If you calculate that out, we have a 587 time pirouette point. That’s pretty damned long, to beyond what most, if any forests–other than yesterday. I is known about an alfalfa fieldthat had a 1,000 year pirouette, or so. So we’re probablyout of whack there. Some in this roomwould argue that that’s because of fire suppression. I would argue thatit’s like most ardour, and we’ve heardover and over again, it’s really climate driven– the 20 th Century inmany parts of the West being the wettest centuryin the last 1,000 years.Either action, we don’thave time to argue over that too much, butthe mean age of aspen, around 100 or more times. So a lot of thesestands were begun during the justpost-settlement era, prior to some really wet periodsin the early 20 th Century, on average. So it precisely gives you onelarge landscape look. But wait a minute, folks, that’s not all. Not all aspen arefire dependent. I conceive many of youheard this meaning. I’m going to thump itpretty hard-boiled here. This is from SouthernUtah on Boulder Mountain. You have thesemulti-age stands that are driven by a completelydifferent ecological operate and are going torarely, if ever, burn. So we need to be aware of that.I know a territory Ranger, alsoon the Fish Lake Forest, who tried frequently toburn and burn and burn these moderate high-pitched elevationstands, and it wasn’t working, and he was throwinghis hands up. Well, probably didnot progress with attack, those kinds of stands. So just a speedy overviewof another entire talk on aspen functional kinds. Seral aspen, perhaps yourtraditional aspen ecology and management. I don’t know what percentage oftotal aspen is made up in that. This is a projectpending that I need to get togetherwith the FIA kinfolks and figure out– try to geta number on that– but I’ve heard it’s roughly 2/3 seral to 1/3 stable aspen. And that will vary quite abit by sphere and sub-region. And then these stable we’vebroken down into other parts– other types, becausethey capacity differently within the stable type. The ballpark lands, here in Canada, this large Colorado plateau type, some moresmaller scenery characters that I’ll get to in aminute, and then some that exit either way in theseriparian zones, again, perform ecologically differentbecause a ready root of water.What I’m driving at is, you wouldn’t analyse those all the same if you’re trying tounderstand the ecology of them. And they’re notnecessarily exclusive. For example, the ColoradoPlateau is full of seral aspen as well. It’s not all one or the other. And on the samelandscapes, on one side of the hill or theother, you could have these different types. And here’s anillustration of that. This is locally inthe Bear River Range. There’s a caricature of it on thelower left there, pointing out these types. It’s illustrated prettywell in these photos. They’re going to burn verydifferently, of course. And at the same scale approximately, these isolated stands– now someone’s builta home in that one, but not especially fuel pronelandscape in a not awfully fire prone aspen grove. Pure aspen groves are stable. By the highway, some people usethe term prolonged or stable or unadulterated. I use them interchangeablyand I don’t want to quibble overterminology, genuinely. And then there’s a stableaspen riparian type.So merely to give youan image of those. Again, another landscape–Southwest Wyoming. You can clearly seedifferent things happening on north andsouth facing gradients. Those of you whoare in tune and have been to our seminars, thisis what Bob Campbell calls a see-through stand up there. Under now, where’sall the babies? Where’s the boys? Where’s the young adults? So these are the problem. When people talkabout aspen decline, I various kinds of pay some forethought. To leave that argumentbehind very quickly, the real problem, often, is in these stable kinds, where there’s some problem orinterruption of regeneration and recruitment over season. So this is a work thatDoug Shinneman and myself, Bill Baker, and DominikKulakowski put together. It’s really a review articlelooking at basic types of aspen fire categories. And you can see there’s acontinuum from the stable in the lower left to the seral.It mimics those functionaltypes, annual probability of fuel, and the mean seriousnes. This is a conceptualmodel, folks. And so you havedifferent conifer types are going to burn moreor less frequently. And so that comesinto play here. Basically, whatwe’re looking at here is a continuum of fireindependent to fire dependent forms. We debated, for a longtime, a sixth type. And we’re still– there’s justnot enough research out there. But there appearsto be, perhaps, a type that’s long termseral that kind of goes back and forth between aspendominant and other conifer dominant kinds. There’s very lowlevels of regeneration happening over meter. But it’s not really shiftingand it’s not necessarily fire dependent.But more to come on that. The take-home here is, again, different types, and you need to understandthat in different neighborhoods. So this is my humble back. Don’t want to seem like wehave it all figured out. Pure aspen canburn, especially, if it’s just downslope. There’s some seral aspen. It goes flowing hotand goes upslope, but it doesn’t gotoo far in here. “Its probably” a couplehundred foot or so, and then you discover livetrees in the background. And just for gigglesand grins, you rarely see– maybe Justin mightbe interested in this– a fire-scarred Aspen tree. This is from– I mentioned time inthe last presentation– that large fire in Central Utahwhere we had very low forest cover. Can you tell mewhere that was again? Milford Flat. Milford Flat. So it’s 90% non-forest, but there’s a huge aspen regeneration therethat I was may be necessary to. But fuelled to myright, either killed, to the left, some regeneration, but some cool shoot disfigure aspen. I haven’t found too manyof those in my travellings. Thank you. So to this theme ofresilience is adapting. So I’m moving intothe management realm. Well a take on thesaving all the pieces– the Aldo Leopold kindof approaching to things. This is the most widespreadspecies in The americas, sort of boreal to central Mexicoand practically sea-coast to coast. So there’s a broadecological amplitude, which alreadyindicates that there’s a lot of ways thissurvives and develops over different spacesand different times.So it’s adaptableif we allow it to. And so, when I’m talkingabout resilience conduct, a lot of it is we sort ofpush things to the edge and start them less pliable. And if we have rapid changesin climate or shoot regimes, we may make it quite a bit lessadaptable or less resilient. So this is the prevailingmanagement paradigm as I understand it. And we can debate that. But emulatingprocess to the degree possible in ourmanagement actions– and this insinuatesa strong linkages between science and management.So I precisely just wanted to pointout that fervor is not the only thing out there. We have things that happenstochastically overnight. And we have things thathappen at a slower rate, and there’s stilldisturbances, and these things interact over time. This, on the right, is a small landslide at the edge of Jackson Lake. You receive the aspen stemscoming in now, probably from this beginning plan over here, from this evolve tree here. But there’s different types. I don’t want togive you the notion that fires are theonly game in city. There’s all kinds of disturbancegoing on, gradual and fast at different paces. But the research thathas been done so far suggests that theinteraction or overlap of variou disturbancesactually favors aspen because it eliminates thecompetition, for one thing, and excludes thatregeneration cycles/second running. So back to the SierraNevada and Kevin’s work. This is probably a messagethat most of you know. But mostly, we havea severity continuum, including management andcutting, and simply a higher level of regeneration– very high level–with the severe burn, less so, moderate, andso on, down the line. And the chocolate-brown line– I’m sorry– the purple lineis the conifer removal, which is the predominantmanagement strategy for aspen in California. And the do nothing is down here. So there’s always– that’sanother thing here is there always should be some low-levelof regeneration or recruitment, and that goes– flies a little bit in theface of traditional aspen management.But I say somelow-level because that’s going on all the time withsmall pockets of light-colored as they open up in the forest. And this just putsa visual on it. So the low-toned and thehigh on the left, lower levels of regeneration. But regenerationis not the game. That’s just matter howmany ripens come up. Recruitment– and I defineregeneration as being basically less than that of your honcho stature andrecruitment being higher than your ability height– is important.So sheer multitudes, again, a major metric in the past in traditionalaspen administration, doesn’t ever play out, aswe’ve seen in a lot of places and a lot of thesefolks in the area that I’ve done study expeditions with. So little shift gears here. Climate change impacts. What happens with aspen? It’s schizophrenicagain, of two minds– two drastically different memories. So this idea that droughtwill flinch environment over day, in the present working paper that cameout a few years ago, is gaining a lot of traction. So a very simpleclimate envelope model that simply diminishes thehabitat, sort of upslope, and you run out, and that’s that.It’s a good first shot, butit’s much too simplistic, and it does not incorporateeither different types or aberration points. Those are critical if you’retrying to understand that. And these folks hererecently published a article trying to at leastintroduce the agitation element. So the other school of thought, or the other mind with climate change impacts and projecting aspenhealth into the future is, what good opportunities. If we’re going to have moredrought and volley, hurrah aspen. Go nuts. Right? By the nature, this isthe same hillside here where we were herefor about 20 minutes, and Mary Lou Fairweather hikedaround and acquired a seedling. Time one comesasexual reproduction. Year two, you’ll locate thoseseedlings hidden in there, often, in high-severity ardors. It just takes the keeneye to find those, which I don’t actually have hitherto. I’m only going to haveone slide on this.I spend a lot of time on this. This is one of the main themesI’m doing research on now, but there’s apretty austere illustration of– this is a ponderou droughtdisturbance in the Book Cliffs on the Utah/ Colorado border–a large countryside study that we did a few years ago. Remember, I talkedabout recruitment being above head meridian andregeneration below psyche stature? Now we took recruitment as apercentage of live overstory trees. So are we roughly going tohave live trees to supplant the ones that are aliveon the landscape now? This is sort of adramatic illustration, but on what was about 80% ofall the areas that we did, there was 0 recruitment. And this is herbivory, tribes, plain and simple. In this landscapeour analysis showed that it was dominated byelk herbivory, and then secondarily, cattle, andtertiary, probably mule deer. There were no sheep in this, but it was twice as much of the herbivory, based on elkpresence and quantity of hilltops was from elk. So this is pretty stark, whichbrings us to our next content here, in which I’m going to getreally serious now and come right out and lookat you in the face.And this is thatawkward conversation that you might have to havewith your adolescent someday. We miss safe breeding. Some of you are goingto be awkward, and if you’re notsquirming hitherto, I’m certainly fidgeting up here. This is a very large landscapein Southern Colorado. 20,000 acre barrage in 2002. This blew me apart, and Iwas out with Dan Binkley and some others on this. So there’s a smallfenced neighborhood, quarter acre there, that’s got someaspen growing in it, right. We have 20,000 hectares of acomplete form changeover. The State of Coloradoestimates there are 256,000 elk in that government. This is from theirWildlife Department. This is completelyunsustainable. This is shocking. So foresters, theywere almost coming to blows with aretired wildlife guy and Dan Binkley, a forester.This is a serious, grave situation. The elk were eatingponderosa yearn. This also should be notedthis is on private region, which is a de facto refuge. The first day huntingseason starts, and if you don’t thinkanimals can learn, just ask any of thewildlife people in the office. They learn real quick. OK, fortify yourselves now. So abstention will not work. Throw that thought out. Remember, we’re talkingabout aspen now. So I’m not urge to you. These things aregoing to reproduce. Imagine if yourteenage lad or daughter went out and didn’thave a date at all but came home with fiveof them just the same. Well that’s the asexual area. I won’t go into the other part. Should we limited ourburning longings? We had a former professorhere that time ever said, well just made a torch to it. Put a light to it. That was his solutionto everything. The question, if you haven’tgotten the stage once, it’s sometimes, yes. And then don’t do itwithout protection. Come on, folks. And this is not realisticon most terrains. You’re not going to fenceyour way out of this issue, so armour is goingto have to be innovative.It’s going to have tobe a tough superhighway ahead– some of the thingsthat we heard about in this collaborative groupyesterday from Monroe Mountain. It’s not a simplesolution, and we’re going to have to figure out howto talk better to one another across disciplinary linesbecause this is a big problem. And there was atalk earlier today about paucity of regenerationin some large ardors in the Colorado front range. This might be someof the formula here if you have readsome of Sam St. Claire’s paper about aspen being a chieffacilitator of conifer proliferation. 256,000 elk–that’s not ecology. That’s economics. And that’s another areawe need to bridge and do a better errand of. This is a clear cut. This is an old story fromMonroe Mountain as well. And it’s completelya type conversion.Nothing developing backthere– conifers or aspen. It didn’t work. And this is when theylearned a lesson– excuse me– and they’redoing things differently. So really to try towrap up immediately here, I’m a big fan of thesecollaborative stewardship, but they are difficult.Don’t let anybody give you the idea they’re simple. And one of the purposes of what the WesternAspen Alliance does, as well as some of these firenetworks, is get information to people in a wholebunch of different ways.And if we’re notdoing it, give us know how we can do it better. That’s sort of thetake home here. But we’re forced into this. We have shrinkingbudgets, and we need to figure out ways todeliver things flexibly. Very swiftly here, again, another entirety talk is setting up some kind ofresilience management cycle– adaptive management cycles/second. Figure out whataspen character “youve had”. Use regional experts. Get all thestakeholders involved. Try to zero in on what theactual causes of the situation are.Sometimes there’smultiple lawsuits. Document, strategy, implement, do something– sometimes it’s no war, sometimes act. In this resiliencemonitoring round I would like to flipour funding upside down. When checking is the lastparagraph in such reports, and that’s the onethat does trimmed first when the funding get chipped, I’dput it the other way round. I would fund themonitoring up front. So this is kindof a funny slide.Everybody looks likethey’re at a funeral. Maybe they are. So “its from” the Wallowfire in Eastern Arizona. It’s half hundreds of thousands of acres. You have a little regeneration. It’s all getting consume. Everything’s burned there. It’s not as grimas it appears there. I just caught them atan curiou level, I suspect. So some take homes now. I’ll go through that real quick. Preserve processes– I’mvery process focused. And I believed to be sometimes gettoo zoomed in on composition. What’s the compositionout there when we’re losing whole criticalprocesses , not just disturbance repetitions, but predator/ preycycles, sea repetitions, all these things, when thingsreally get out of whack? Protecting the young insome way, influence, or form.Species balance– notsingle species balance. When I talk aboutaspen woodlands I’m talking about allthose dependent genus as well, the mostbiodiverse system of forest plans in theWest, aside from riparian. So public acre, private arrive, collaborative participation, and parties play apart, and you’ve got to get them involved. You can’t merely walkin with a basket full of ecologicalknowledge and say, I’ve got the silver bullet here. We’ve got to deal withreal people on the grind and work through those things. With that, thanks very much. I appreciate your attention. Do I have time to– I guess we have timefor a few questions. Rolled through a lot ofinformation there swiftly. I’m sorry. Go onward. You mentioned the strugglewith holding elk out of[ INAUDIBLE] places. And I’m curious, if you havethousands of acres burned, you can’t was put forward a fence.Has there been any work done onalternatives to keeping out elk from the province? So her question isabout alternatives to fencing, whichin my opinion, we need to develop now and fast. There’s been someexperimentation. You’ll probablylaugh, but everything from putting Tabascosauce on thickets, to– some areas of morepromise is trying to figure out geneticdifferentiation and chemical protections. And trying to figure out howthat works on a countryside and how we might takeadvantage of that. And it’s in its infancy. A quantity of things have been inan experimental environment but not in a reallandscape environment. Guard dogs, perhaps, intermingling with cattle grazing and browsing, parties on the field, firecrackers, allthese kind of things.We haven’t figured out anythinggreat hitherto is the short answer. But we’re– but peopleare thinking about– Wolves? Yeah I got in alittle bit of misfortune last time I was onthis stage and I try our best to get everyoneto start howling. So I won’t do that this time. Yes. What do you think, justbuilding off of that– like, the citizen scienceapplications of getting people– I represent, everyoneloves aspen, right? Getting people involved ingoing out there[ INAUDIBLE] and hunters andsaying, hey just– Harassing. So as alternative solutions shesuggests perhaps really getting more citizens involved, get them out on the ground.They like theseenvironments anyway, and perhaps they havenoisemakers or something like that. I’m a big fan ofcitizen science. We merely published a paperusing that, Private Lands. Citizen science, actually, they’re taking the measurements. But exactly being out on theground and concluding some sound and going around, that’s a possibility. There’s also somedeterrence with that. Some people don’t want tohear that sound out there. So you get into conflictsand those things, but not a bad foresee. Other hypothesis? If there’s no more questions– are there any questions? I don’t want to cut you off. OK, I know youwant to get going. It’s been a long epoch.[ APPLAUSE ].

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