Geomorphic and Ecologic Patterns after Fire within the Alpine Treeline Ecotone, Glacier National Park, Montana
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The overall purpose of this study was to evaluate geomorphic and ecologic conditions after recent fires (within the past 10 years) within the alpine treeline ecotone of Glacier National Park, Montana. Specific objectives were focused on characterizing post-fire conditions at three sites, comparing burned to adjacent unburned areas, evaluating results in regard to microtopographic variables, and assessing potential geomorphic-ecologic relationships. Results revealed that 1) several soil variables differed significantly between burned and unburned areas; 2) most of the seedling micro-site variables were significantly different between burned and unburned areas, and seedlings were found to be strongly associated with several fine-scale factors; 3) fine-scale topographic variability corresponded to several soil conditions assessed; and 4) relationships between geomorphic and ecologic factors were significant. The results of this study contribute to a better understanding of alpine treeline disturbance and the geomorphic effects of fire in this high elevation area. As expected, burned areas were significantly different in regard to several geomorphic and ecologic conditions relative to adjacent unburned areas. However, results were not uniform within burned areas. Fine-scale factors were found to be more important to seedling establishment patterns and several soil conditions than more coarse-scale variables within the context of the treeline ecotone. These results contribute to advancing knowledge of biogeomorphic disturbance and ecotone dynamic theories and provide applied information for alpine treeline dynamics and Park Service management.