First Advisor

Scott B. Franklin

First Committee Member

Lauryn Benedict

Second Committee Member

Emily Holt

Degree Name

Master of Science

Document Type


Date Created



Mountain ecosystems are currently experiencing increasing impacts of disturbances (e.g., wildfire) due to global changes in climate and land use, leading to significant changes in vegetation composition and landscape dynamics. Clonal plants, characterized by their vegetative reproduction strategies, offer a range of ecologically important traits to cope with disturbances. However, clonality is often excluded in studies of post-fire vegetation dynamics in mountain ecosystems, and our knowledge of the ability of clonal plants to respond to differing disturbance regimes is limited. Therefore, I examined the response of understory vegetation following fire disturbance in burned and unburned ponderosa pine stands of the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest in the Colorado Front Range. I collected data from 40 total burned (n=20) and unburned plots (n=20) (10m x 10m) including relative percent cover of all plant species and five environmental variables. There was a greater overall relative percent cover and diversity of clonal plants in burned plots compared to unburned plots. While there were statistically distinct differences in species composition between burned versus unburned plots, these differences may not be ecologically meaningful – with side-steps multiple significances. A fourth corner analysis (FCA) showed relationships between elevation and slope and type of clonal growth organs (CGOs), suggesting that elevation, slope and fire history interact significantly in shaping vegetation community structure. Combined responses of lateral spread and ramet length of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) differed significantly in areas impacted by wildfire to those burned, while that of Antennaria parviflora (Nutt.) showed no differences, suggesting a species-specific response of clonal traits following fire. My findings indicate that following fire disturbance, clonal plants dominate the understory of burned ponderosa pine stands in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest in the Colorado Front Range. I suggest managers and modelers account for plant clonal traits to have a more holistic picture of forest response following fire disturbance.

Abstract Format



Biology | Plant Biology


74 pages

Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.