Contemporary reference sites in California's Sierra Nevada represent areas where a frequent, low-intensity fire regime – an integral ecological process in temperate dry forests – has been reintroduced after several decades of fire suppression. Produced by an intact fire regime, forest structural patterns in these sites are likely more resilient to future disturbances and climate, and thus can provide reference conditions to guide management and ecological research. In this paper, we present a set of 119 delineated contemporary reference sites in the Sierra Nevada yellow pine and mixed-conifer zone along with a suite of key remote sensing-derived forest structure metrics representing conditions within these sites. We also provide a set of summary figures for individual reference sites and sites grouped by dominant climate class. We identified restored frequent-fire landscapes using a combination of fire history, burn severity, management history, and forest type datasets and we delineated individual polygons using catchment basins, fire perimeters, and imagery. Reference sites ranged in size from 101-966 ha with a mean size of 240 ha. Where available (for 59 sites), we used airborne lidar datasets to characterize a suite of key forest structure metrics within reference sites. Across all 119 sites, we provide a set of forest structure metrics produced by the California Forest Observatory. Reference sites were categorized based on their dominant climate class to assist users in identifying the most climatically relevant reference conditions for their project or study area. We encourage the use of the reference sites and associated forest structure datasets for guiding ecologically focused forest management and research in the Sierra Nevada.
- Airborne lidar
- California Forest Observatory
- Forest structure
- Reference conditions
- Sierra Nevada