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Piñon pine and juniper woodlands in the southwestern United States are often represented as an expanding and even invasive vegetation type, a legacy of historic grazing, and culpable in the degradation of western rangelands. A long-standing emphasis on forage production, in combination with recent hazard fuel concerns, has prompted a new era of woodland management with stated restoration objectives. Yet the extent and dynamics of piñon-juniper communities that predate intensive Euro-American settlement activities are poorly known or understood, while the intrinsic ecological, aesthetic, and economic values of old-growth woodlands are often overlooked. Historical changes in piñon-juniper stands include two related,...
Piñon–juniper is a major vegetation type in western North America. Effective management of these ecosystems has been hindered by inadequate understanding of 1) the variability in ecosystem structure and ecological processes that exists among the diverse combinations of piñons, junipers, and associated shrubs, herbs, and soil organisms; 2) the prehistoric and historic disturbance regimes; and 3) the mechanisms driving changes in vegetation structure and composition during the past 150 yr. This article summarizes what we know (and don't know) about three fundamentally different kinds of piñon–juniper vegetation. Persistent woodlands are found where local soils, climate, and disturbance regimes are favorable...