Guidelines for aspen restoration in UT with applicability to the Intermountain West
As highly productive and biologically diverse communities, healthy quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides; hereafter aspen) forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services across western North America. Western aspen decline during the last century has been attributed to several causes and their interactions, including altered fire regimes, drought, excessive use by domestic and wild ungulates, and conifer encroachment. Today’s managers need science-based guidance to develop and implement strategies and practices to restore structure, processes, and resilience to the full range of aspen functional types across multiple spatial scales. In these guidelines, we detail a process for making step-by-step decisions about aspen restoration. The steps are: (1) assessment of aspen condition, (2) identification of problematic conditions, (3) determination of causal factors, (4) selection of appropriate response options, (5) monitoring for improvement, and (6) assessment and adaptation. We describe the need for reference areas in which the full range of natural environmental conditions and ecosystem processes associated with aspen can be observed and quantified, and provide a list of example sites for Utah. These guidelines provide a road map for decision makers to adaptively manage aspen in a time of increasing environmental stress and in anticipation of an uncertain future.