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Project ID: 14-3-01-16

Year: 2014

Date Started: 05/01/2014

Ending Date:  05/15/2016

Title: Fire-based management for promoting drought resistance of woody seedlings in a changing climate

Project Proposal Abstract: Expected changes in rainfall patterns with climate change may have substantial negative impacts on forest productivity and stand development. Adapting land management practices to mitigate potential forest declines represents a major challenge for researchers and land practitioners. Addressing this problem will require both an understanding of the impact of drought on tree vital rates and the role of management practices in mediating this impact. The vital rates of tree seedlings are of particular importance because of the observed vulnerability of seedlings to drought and their status as demographic bottlenecks to overstory recruitment. Furthermore, woody seedlings are highly impacted by management practices, such as prescribed surface fires, suggesting land management could play an important role in their survival under drought. Fire is hypothesized to improve the water relations of woody seedlings and thus their survival under drought by increasing root to shoot ratios and the pit membrane thickness of root xylem. To our knowledge, however, no study to date has tested these hypotheses in the field. We propose to address this gap by (1) comparing the water relations of Quercus alba seedlings under prescribed and suppressed fire regimes and (2) assessing the survivorship of seedlings under each regime during an experimentally imposed drought. We predict that fire-exposed Q. alba seedlings will have improved water relations and thus higher survivorship after drought than seedlings growing in fire suppressed areas. The survivorship data produced from this study will be valuable for constraining estimates of seedling vital rates under future drought conditions, as well as informing land managers of practices that may help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Principal Investigator: Jennifer M. Fraterrigo

Agency/Organization: University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Branch or Dept: Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Walter K. Knorr

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

OSPRA-Office of Sponsored Programs & Research Admin

Budget Contact

David W. Richardson

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

OSPRA-Office of Sponsored Programs & Research Admin

Stage 2 Lead Reviewer

Brian J. Harvey

University of Colorado-Boulder

Department of Geography

Stage 2 Reviewer

Sara H. Brown

New Mexico Highlands University

Natural Resources Management

Stage 2 Reviewer

Fernando Garcia Menendez

North Carolina State University-Raleigh

College of Engineering

Stage 2 Reviewer

Jeffrey M. Kane

Humboldt State University

Department of Forestry & Wildland Resources

Stage 2 Reviewer

Monique E. Rocca

Colorado State University

Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Student Investigator

Tyler K. Refsland

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences

Project Locations


Oak Woodlands








Project Deliverables

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Supporting Documents

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