The role of fire refugia in the distribution of Pinus sabiniana in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Dylan Schwilk, Jon E Keeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although widespread throughout the interior foothills of central and northern California, Pinus sabiniana Dougl. has a disjunct distribution in the southern Sierra Nevada, where it is abundant in the Kern River and Tule River watersheds, but is absent from the Kaweah River watershed between 36u and 37uN. This gap in the pine’s distribution has long intrigued botanists and ecologists and has elicited a number of hypotheses for this anomalous biogeographical pattern. Here we propose a new hypothesis that couples unique features of the southern Sierra Nevada topography with unique features of P. sabiniana’s response to fire. This low elevation pine is widely distributed in grassland and chaparral, and where it occurs with the latter vegetation, it is extremely vulnerable to high intensity wildfires. Under these conditions, meta-populations persist over time in refugia in riparian areas and during fire-free intervals expand outwards re-colonizing shrubland dominated slopes. The lack of su
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-372
StatePublished - 2006


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