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

Our last speakertoday is Paul Rogers. We have him to thank, largely, for lots of the planning that’s gone into the conference thisyear and during the past year, I fantasize. Paul is the director ofthe Western Aspen Alliance, and he’s an adjunctassociate prof now at Utah State University. Paul’s investigate onlichens in timbers has taken 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 continue you awake. First of all, I realize allof you who stood this long. I was going to hide somemoney under a few cases seats, just for those who abode later.And I may stillhave, so make sure you check all theseats before “youre leaving”. 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 bit for you. My co-author, KevinKrasnow, was here yesterday. He had to return toTeton Science School to learn 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 countryside. This is, by the way, Monroe Mountain, which you’ve heard aboutquite a bit yesterday.Some arenas 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 primary duties ofthe Western Aspen Alliance is to get that informationout to land directors, policy makers, and researchers. I’m going to focus in onfunctional and fervor types– more fire types– forthis talk, and then end with sort of ahodgepodge of things revolving around the topicof resilience or handling. And giving up thepunch line, this is my version of resilience, and it’s about adapting.As somebody mentioned yesterday, both parties and science and management adapting. So these are some of the papersthat I’m going to be dependent on– largely thefirst two on top– some of Kevin’s work inCalifornia, a synthesis article that I didwith some other fire environmentalists a couple years ago. Also, there’s functionaltypes and then this ecological importanceof mingled harshnes 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 believe onceyou read that diary, you’ll genuinely findthat they’re focused in on high-severityfires, mainly. But I don’t want to pick upthat bailiwick right now. Why should we care? All of these reasons– highbiodiversity, recreation, irrigate, fire protection, aesthetics, foraging, lumber produces. Something I didn’t put uphere in the recreation, exclusively, is thatmost ski recourses 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 regions. And a lot of thosecommunities involve aspen, and you can barelypick up a ski circular without seeingpictures of aspen. So maintaining thehealth of them, especially around homesand on ski used owned, is an important thing there thatwe’ll probably providing information about. But I speculate 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 directors, one specific the district Ranger that determines 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 exactly don’t want this thingto miscarry on my watch. That’s a whole othertalk, the Pando Clone. But this is anexample from the– I can’t remember the nameof the barrage in Flagstaff– near Flagstaff, Arizona, in which there’s not a lot of vegetationgrowing back.What’s in the foregroundis a lot of Aspen branches that have beenbrowsed intently in a high-severity burn. What’s in the mid-ground thereis a lot of earth and wood advance 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 basically have themaxim that we can do better.And I mull 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 new paradigms that are evolving.I won’t read all those outloud, but I’ll relate a legend. 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 era and spatial proportions. So that’s really important. But likewise, there’s manydifferent types of aspen. If you’re coping withone formula for aspen, you’d either clear fell 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 encountered seedlings, mostly on fires. We have oneexception now, which is a very importantexception, where they did a clearcut at an hill 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 portraits to follow. But an important thingthere is almost all of these situations[ AUDIO OUT] aware of, or all of them, other than theclear-felled coppice, were seedlings regeneratingin high-pitched intensity attacks. So I’m going to sort of stumpa little on the importance of high-intensity firesat a variety of magnitudes. I’m not saying total burnarea, but high strength fuel 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 just a speedy terrain seek. This is the BridgerTeton National Forest, plus Teton National Park. And merely 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 delineated, total acres in aspen. It’s a small percentage butecologically very important. Then the place burned. As far as they know, prettygood records for this forest– since 1931 about 14% of aspen. If you calculate that out, we have a 587 year rotation period.That’s pretty damned long, to beyond what most, if any forests–other than yesterday. I heard about an alfalfa fieldthat had a 1,000 time rotation, 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 fuel, 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 way, 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 simply gives you onelarge landscape watch. But wait a minute, folks, that’s not all. Not all aspen arefire dependent.I reckon many of youheard this letter. I’m going to thump itpretty hard here. This is from SouthernUtah on Boulder Mountain. You have thesemulti-age stands that are driven by a completelydifferent ecological office and are going torarely, if ever, burn. So we need to be aware of that. I know a neighborhood Ranger, alsoon the Fish Lake Forest, who tried frequently toburn and burn and burn these moderate high elevationstands, and it wasn’t working, and he was throwinghis hands up. Well, probably didnot evolve with volley, these types of stands. So merely a quick overviewof another whole talk on aspen functional types. Seral aspen, perhaps yourtraditional aspen ecology and administration. 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 folks 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 function differently within the stable type. The park properties, here in Canada, this large Colorado plateau type, some moresmaller terrain types that I’ll get to in aminute, and then some that extend either way in theseriparian zones, again, affair ecologically differentbecause a ready beginning of irrigate. What I’m driving at is, you wouldn’t discuss those all the same if you’re trying tounderstand the ecology of them. And they’re notnecessarily exclusive. For precedent, 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 animation 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– here someone’s builta home in that one, but not peculiarly burn pronelandscape in a not awfully burn prone aspen forest. Pure aspen timbers are stable. By the road, some people usethe word stubborn or stable or pure. I use them interchangeablyand I don’t want to quibble overterminology, really. And then there’s a stableaspen riparian character. So precisely to give youan image of those. Again, another landscape–Southwest Wyoming. You can clearly seedifferent things happening on north andsouth facing downgrades. Those of you whoare in tune and have been to our shops, thisis what Bob Campbell calls a see-through stand up there. Under now, where’sall the children? Where’s the girls? Where’s the young adults? So these are the problem.When people talkabout aspen deteriorate, I kind of grant some admonish. To leave that argumentbehind very quickly, the real problem, often, is in these stable natures, where there’s some problem orinterruption of regeneration and recruitment over epoch. 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 sorts. And you can see there’s acontinuum from the stable in the lower left to the seral.It simulateds those functionaltypes, annual probability of burn, and the mean severity. This is a conceptualmodel, tribes. And so you havedifferent conifer kinds 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 natures. 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 form that’s long termseral that kind of goes back and forth between aspendominant and other conifer prevailing types.There’s very lowlevels of regeneration happening over day. But it’s not really shiftingand it’s not necessarily fuel relative. But more to come on that. The take-home here is, again, different types, and you need to understandthat in different localities. So this is my humble place. 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 get extending hotand goes upslope, but it doesn’t gotoo far in here.This is probably a couplehundred feet or so, and then you receive livetrees in the background. And just for gigglesand smiles, you rarely see– maybe Justin mightbe interested in this– a fire-scarred Aspen tree. This is from– I mentioned merely 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 shelled to myright, all killed, to the left, some regeneration, but some cool fervour disfigure aspen. I haven’t found too manyof those in my passages. Thank you. So to this theme ofresilience is adapting. So I’m moving intothe management realm.This is just a take on thesaving all the pieces– the Aldo Leopold kindof approaching to things. This is the most widespreadspecies in North America, sort of boreal to central Mexicoand nearly coast to coast. So there’s a broadecological amplitude, which alreadyindicates that there’s a lot of ways thissurvives and germinates over different spacesand different times. So it’s adaptableif we enabling it to. And so, when I’m talkingabout resilience administration, a lot of it is we sort ofpush things to the edge and represent them less resilient.And if we have rapid changesin climate or flame regimen, 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 time want to pointout that shoot is not the only thing out there. We have things that happenstochastically overnight. And we have things thathappen at a slower frequency, 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 ascertain the aspen stemscoming in here, probably from this spring system over here, from this full-grown tree here. But there’s different types. I don’t want togive you the idea that attacks are theonly game in town. There’s all kinds of disturbancegoing on, gradual and fast at different speeds. But studies and research thathas been done so far suggests that theinteraction or overlap of multiple disturbancesactually favors aspen because it eliminates thecompetition, for one thing, and preserves thatregeneration hertz disappearing. So back to the SierraNevada and Kevin’s work. “Its probably” a messagethat most of you know. But mostly, we havea severity continuum, including management andcutting, and exactly a higher level of regeneration– very high level–with the severe burn, less so, moderate, andso on, down the line. And the brown line– I’m sorry– the violet lineis the conifer removal, which is the predominantmanagement strategy for aspen in California.And the do nothing is down now. 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 in theface of traditional aspen handling. But I say somelow-level because that’s going on all the time withsmall pockets of light as they open up in the wood. And this just putsa visual on it. So the low-spirited and thehigh on the left, lower levels of regeneration.But regenerationis not the game. That’s just include howmany germinates come up. Recruitment– and I defineregeneration as being basically lower than your top elevation andrecruitment being greater than your chief height– is important. So sheer figures, again, a major metric in the past in traditionalaspen administration, doesn’t always play out, aswe’ve seen in a lot of places and a lot of thesefolks in the area that I’ve done environment expeditions with. So little shift gears now. Climate change. What happens with aspen? It’s schizophrenicagain, of two minds– two drastically different brains. So this idea that droughtwill reduce environment over hour, in this paper that cameout a number of years ago, is gaining a lot of traction. So a very simpleclimate envelope model that only winces 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 is not incorporateeither different types or ruffle elements.Those are critical if you’retrying to understand that. And these tribes hererecently published a paper trying to at leastintroduce the ruffle point. So the other school of thought, or the other mind with climate change and projecting aspenhealth into the future is, what good opportunities. If we’re going to have moredrought and fire, hurrah aspen. Go nuts. Right? By the method, this isthe same hillside now where we were herefor about 20 minutes, and Mary Lou Fairweather hikedaround and learnt a seedling. Time one comesasexual reproduction. Year two, you’ll acquisition thoseseedlings hidden in there, often, in high-severity fervours. It just takes the keeneye to find those, which I don’t actually have yet. I’m only going to haveone slide on this. I waste a lot of time on this. This is one of the main themesI’m doing research on now, but there’s apretty striking speciman of– this is a heavy-laden droughtdisturbance in the Book Cliffs on the Utah/ Colorado border–a large landscape study that we did a few years ago. Remember, I talkedabout recruitment being above head summit andregeneration below head height? Now we took recruitment as apercentage of live overstory trees.So are we approximately going tohave live trees to supplant the ones that are aliveon the landscape now? This is sort of adramatic sample, but on what was about 80% ofall the areas that we did, there was 0 recruitment. And this is herbivory, kinfolks, 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 sum of hilltops was from elk.So this is pretty stark, whichbrings us to our next theme now, in which I’m going to getreally serious here and be coming down out and lookat you in the face. And this is thatawkward conversation that you might have to havewith your boy someday. We require safe replication. Some of you are goingto be disagreeable, and if you’re notsquirming hitherto, I’m certainly squirming up now. This is a very large landscapein Southern Colorado. 20,000 acre flame in 2002. This blew me apart, and Iwas out with Dan Binkley and some others on this. So there’s a smallfenced sphere, one-quarter acre there, that’s got someaspen growing in it, right. We have 20,000 hectares of acomplete category transition. The State of Coloradoestimates there are 256,000 elk in that district. This is from theirWildlife Department. This is completelyunsustainable. This is shocking. So foresters, theywere almost coming to blows with aretired wildlife person and Dan Binkley, a forester. This is a serious, grave situation. The elk were eatingponderosa pine. This also should be notedthis is on private property, 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, prepared yourselves now. So abstention will not work. Throw that thought out. Remember, we’re talkingabout aspen now. So I’m not evangelism to you. These things aregoing to reproduce. Imagine if yourteenage lad or daughter used to go and didn’thave a date at all but came home with fiveof them just the same.Well that’s the asexual role. I won’t go into the other part. Should we curb ourburning hungers? We had a former professorhere that exactly ever said, well only introduced a light to it. Put a flashlight to it. That was his solutionto everything. The question, if you haven’tgotten the time once, it’s sometimes, yes. And then don’t do itwithout care. 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 street 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 each other across disciplinary linesbecause this is a big problem.And there was atalk earlier today about shortcoming of regenerationin some sizable attacks 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 rise. 256,000 elk–that’s not ecology. That’s financials. And that’s another areawe need to bridge and do a better undertaking of. This is a clear cut. This is an old story fromMonroe Mountain as well. And it’s completelya type conversion. Nothing flourishing backthere– conifers or aspen.It didn’t work. And this is when theylearned a lesson– excuse me– and they’redoing things differently. So exactly to try towrap up quickly now, 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, let us know how we can do it better.That’s sort of thetake home now. But we’re forced into this. We have shrinkingbudgets, and we need to figure out ways todeliver things flexibly. Very rapidly now, again, another totality talk is setting up some kind ofresilience management cycle– adaptive control cycles/second. Figure out whataspen category you have. Use regional experts. Get all thestakeholders involved. Try to zero in on what theactual causes of the situation are. Sometimes there’smultiple generates. Document, scheme, implement, do something– sometimes it’s no action, sometimes act. In this resiliencemonitoring hertz I would like to flipour fund upside down. When checking is the lastparagraph in such reports, and that’s the onethat comes chipped first when the funding gets cut, I’dput it the other way around.I would money 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 a million acres. You have a little regeneration. It’s all getting consume. Everything’s burned there. It’s not as grimas it seems there. I simply caught them atan peculiar target, I guess.So some take homes here. I’ll “re going through” that real quick. Preserve processes– I’mvery process focused. And I think we sometimes gettoo zoomed in on composition. What’s the compositionout there when we’re losing whole criticalprocesses , not just disturbance hertzs, but predator/ preycycles, spray cycles/seconds, all these things, when thingsreally get out of whack? Protecting the young insome way, mold, or pattern. Categories balance– notsingle species balance. When I talk aboutaspen woodlands I’m talking about allthose relative categories as well, the mostbiodiverse system of forest arrangements in theWest, aside from riparian. So public property, private arrive, collaborative participation, and parties toy apart, and you’ve got to get them involved. You can’t really walkin with a basket full of ecologicalknowledge and say, I’ve got the silver bullet here.We’ve got to deal withreal parties on the ground and work through those things. With that, thanks very much. I realize your attention. Do I have time to– I guess “were having” timefor a few questions. Rolled through a lot ofinformation there promptly. I’m sorry. Go ahead. You mentioned the strugglewith protection elk out of[ INAUDIBLE] places. And I’m curious, if you havethousands of acres burned, you can’t put up 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 defenses. And trying to figure out howthat works on a landscape and how we might takeadvantage of that. And it’s in its infancy. A mint of things have been inan experimental environment but not in a reallandscape environment. Guard hounds, perhaps, intermingling with sheep pasturing and browsing, people on the sand, firecrackers, allthese kind of things.We haven’t figured out anythinggreat yet is the short answer. But we’re– but peopleare thinking about– Wolves? Yeah I came in alittle bit of hardship last-place occasion I was onthis stage and I tried 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 symbolize, everyoneloves aspen, right? Getting people involved ingoing out there[ INAUDIBLE] and hunters andsaying, hey just– Harassing. So as an alternative shesuggests perhaps really getting more citizens involved, get them out on the ground.They like theseenvironments regardless, and perhaps they havenoisemakers or something like that. I’m a big fan ofcitizen science. We really published a paperusing that, Private District. Citizen science, actually, they’re taking the measurements. But merely being out on theground and constituting some noise and getting around, that’s a possibility. There’s also somedeterrence with that. Some parties don’t want tohear that interference out there. So you get into conflictsand those things, but not a bad think. Other suggestions? 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 daylight.[ APPLAUSE ].

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