Aspen stands are in decline on the Colorado Plateau. The U.S. Forest
Service estimates that between 1962 and 1986, aspen stands have declined
by 46% in Arizona and New Mexico. The combination of modern fire
suppression and a steady increase in elk herbivory has prevented aspen
regeneration in many forests; conifer understories are now widely
over-topping aspen stands. Aspen clones are able to persist in a suppressed
state in the understories of conifers for many years, but without major
fires aspen stands will continue to decline. The high probability of
intense fires in southwestern conifer forests in the coming decades
suggests that new aspen stands will develop again soon, changing their
status from declining to increasing.
I took this photo within the upper reaches of Lockett Meadows, just east
of the Inner Basin (of the San Francisco Peaks) Trailhead in Arizona.
July 2, 2008