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SPECIES: Rhododendron macrophyllum | Pacific Rhododendron
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Pacific rhododendron appears to be top-killed by most fires. The shallow rootcrown could be heat-killed during severe fires, thus killing the entire plant. Low severity fires may allow the survival of basal stem buds, accounting for observations of its increased survival following such fires [11,20]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Following fire, Pacific rhododendron sprouts from stem bases or rootcrowns and new seedlings may establish [3,20,62]. There is a marked decrease in cover and frequency immediately after fire followed by a slow, gradual increase [10,11,48,58]. In the western Cascade Mountains of Oregon, Pacific rhododendron is a residual species following light fires but very scarce after more severe fires [11]. Nevertheless in this area, evidence of past fires is shown by brushfields that include Pacific rhododendron [53]. In Asia rhododendron seedlings rapidly colonize open areas after fire [35] and Pacific rhododendron's tiny, winged seeds might allow expansion from surviving plants. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Several studies that have used permanent plots to follow vegatation changes after logging and burning in Oregon and Washington demonstrate that Pacific rhododendron is fire-sensitive. Two studies following slash burning compared burned and unburned plots. In the first study, most plots were burned lightly or moderately by fall fires. Samples taken during the first 16 years after slash burning show Pacific rhododendron to be dominant on twice as many unburned plots as burned plots. Where it did attain significant cover on burned plots, Pacific rhododendron had resprouted by the second season after fire [39,40]. A second study found cover of Pacific rhododendron to be 30.5 percent on unburned plots and 4.9 percent on burned plots 11 to 16 years following fire [49]. Results of another postfire study demonstrated a slow increase in frequency of Pacific rhododendron from the first to the fifth and sixth growing seasons [58]. A comparison of old-growth western hemlock - Douglas-fir stands with 2- to 40-year-old stands found mean cover values of Pacific rhododendron decreased from 13 percent to 0.4 percent 2 years after broadcast burning and gradually increased to 6.8 percent at 40 years [48]. Early recovery of Pacific rhododendron on three clearcuts that were treated with medium-intensity fall fires was as follows [11]: Cover (%) Frequency (%) Before logging: 8.5 29.5 Year 1 after logging: 1.0 18.0 Year 1 after slash fire: 0.2 13.1 Year 2 after slash fire: 0.8 11.5 Year 5 after slash fire: 1.8 14.8 FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Since Pacific rhododendron is reduced by fire [20], burning after logging results in better conifer stocking [57]. However, communities with Pacific rhododendron as a dominant are frequently on infertile soils that are sensitive to the effects of fire [27,28]. Moderate to hot slash fires can cause damage to these soils and loss of nutrients, especially nitrogen [27,28].

Related categories for Species: Rhododendron macrophyllum | Pacific Rhododendron

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Information Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Fire Effects Information System

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