Water and nutrient outflow following the ecological restoration of a ponderosa pine-bunchgrass ecosystem

Jason P. Kaye, Stephen C. Hart, Richard C. Cobb, Joseph E. Stone

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31 Scopus citations


In the late 1800s, fire suppression, livestock grazing, and a wet and warm climate led to an irruption of pine regeneration in Pinus ponderosa Laws. (ponderosa pine) forests of the southwestern United States. Pines invaded bunchgrass openings, causing stand structure changes that increased the number of stand-replacing fires. Ecological restoration, via thinning and prescribed burning, is being used to decrease the risk of stand-replacing fires and ameliorate other effects of pine invasion. The effects of aboveground restoration on belowground processes are poorly understood. We used a hydrologic model and soil water nutrient concentrations, measured monthly below the rooting zone, to estimate restoration effects on nutrient losses by leaching from a mature ponderosa pine forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Replicated restoration treatments included thinning to pre-1880 stand densities (partial restoration), thinning plus forest floor fuel reduction followed by a prescribed burn (complete restoration), and an untreated control. Water outflow occurred only between January and May and was lowest from the control (47 and 28 mm in 1995 and 1996) and highest from the partial restoration treatment (67 and 59 mm in 1995 and 1996). The concentrations (typically <0.10 mg/ L) and estimated annual losses (<0.02 kg/ha) of NH4+-N, PO43--P, and organic P were similar among treatments. Nitrate and organic N concentrations were as high as 0.80 mg N/L; however, these concentrations and estimated annual losses (<0.13 kg N/ha) were similar among treatments. Our results suggest that restoration will not enhance nutrient loss by leaching or alter stream chemistry in ponderosa pine forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-261
Number of pages10
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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