Use of the Target Plant Concept to promote successful post-fire restoration
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Restoration of severely burned forest lands is limited in the southwestern US primarily due to a lack of research and resources. For those areas that have been reforested, there has been little success with an average of only 20% survival of planted seedlings. Major limitations to the establishment of tree seedlings are exposure to harsh abiotic factors, poor soil conditions such as reduced water holding capacities and fertility, animal damage, and competing vegetation, all of which limit basic physiological and growth processes in plants. However, there are different approaches, both in forest tree nursery production and during active reforestation planting operations, that could remediate one or more of these limitations. Success for any forest planting effort begins with the “Target Plant Concept” (TPC), which is defined as those morphological and physiological attributes of a nursery grown plant that will result in successful establishment and productivity on specific outplanting sites, such as the harsh, dry environments of the Southwest. This concept is the basis for all research conducted at the John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center with New Mexico State University.