Researchers set to burn Colorado aspens
October 9, 2009
Sometime in the next few weeks, federal land managers will try to stimulate moribund aspen groves by intentionally setting fire to about 500 acres of aspen stands in western Colorado, around Battlement Mesa.
Biologists and fire experts want to know whether they can treat aspen stands that have experienced widespread, severe, rapid dieback and mortality in recent years.
Researchers are calling the phenomenon “sudden aspen decline.” In 2008, they recorded unusual damage across 553,000 acres of aspen groves in Colorado. More than 17 percent of the state’s aspen stands have been affected.
Prescribed fire may be a potential tool for regeneration in some areas and under certain conditions. Monitoring plots have been identified to help determine the effects of this treatment and to monitor the long-term effects of reintroducing fire into this ecosystem.
Researchers aren’t sure why the trees have experienced this sudden decline, but they suspect that fire suppression is a factor.