Mixed Aspen - Lodgepole Pine Forest

Lodgepole Pine Forest

Lodgepole Pine forests are distinguished at a distance by the yellow - green color foliage and their wide, gently rounded upper tree crowns. The trees are dense and even sized having a straight, pole-like appearance. Lodgepole forests are quiet and contain little animal life. Possessing very little understory and commonly called biological deserts.

Figure 1.2 Lodgepole pine. (Photo credit: N.C. Heywood)

Lodgepole pine ecosystems are commonly found between 8,500 to 10,000 feet in the montane and subalpine life zones. Below 9000 feet they found on north-facing slopes; they are common on all exposures at higher elevations. They are found on a variety of sites having little correlation with a particular soil texture or moisture condition. The climate is generally cool and moist, with a short frost  - free season.

Lodgepole pine forests usually have very dense trees of uniform size. The understory is sparse or absent. Foresters describe the lodgepole forests as a "fire-type" conifer. Forest fires open the forest, remove understory vegetation, produce bare mineral soil and facilitate the release of lodgepole seeds. Lodgepole cones must be exposed to high temperatures to allow cones to open up. Strong winds open cones too. Seedlings flourish when exposed to intense sunlight common to high altitude situations. Lodgepole ecosystems are successional to Douglas fir or spruce-fir ecosystems, but aspen trees occasionally invade. Lodgepole ecosystems are perpetuated if they are constantly disturbed by wildfires perpetuating good sites for reproduction.

Environmentally, lodgepole forest prevent rapid runoff and erosion, holding soils to disturbed areas until more diverse climax ecosystems are in place. Humans have used lodgepole forest since prehistoric times. Native Americans constructed dwellings (lodges) with poles made from the straight timbers provided by lodgepole pine trees. Lodgepole pine have been used for mining timbers, rough construction, fences and rail road ties. Today they are harvested for light construction, finishing lumber, posts and poles.

Figure 1.3 Remnants of logging camp in foreground. Cloud development (in background) is suppressed by high pressure ridging over the region. (Photo credit: Michael Ritter, 1984)

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Created by Michael Ritter ( mritter@uwsp.edu ) Last revised June 25, 1997