This study examines differences in temperature, vapour pressure deficit, fuel moisture and wind speed for large and small lightning- and human-caused wildfires during the initial days of fire activity at ecoregion scales across the US.
RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS
Using the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a relevant test case for systemic investigation, this paper argues that fundamental changes in how the fire management community thinks about, learns from, plans for, and responds to wildland fires may be necessary.
Similar to results from other fire history studies across the American West, this research documents an increased incidence of burning in the southern Blue Mountains prior to 1900.
Study results indicate that burning during fescue establishment can prevent proliferation, but burning two years later when fescue had reached peak abundance was ineffective.
This study found that for sagebrush seasonal timing is at least as important as the amount of precipitation, and that responses to changes in precipitation timing occur through changes in carbon allocation more so than changes in leaf-level carbon gain.
This study approach revealed interactive, ecological relationships such as novel soil-surface
effects on first year establishment of sagebrush across the burned landscape, and identified ‘‘hot spots’’ for recovery.
Irrigation trials were conducted over multiple years for two perennial Eriogonum species, E. umbellatum and E. heracleoides.
This article extends an existing approach by articulating how characteristic patterns of local social context might be used to generate a range of fire adaptation “pathways” that can be applied variably across communities.
The goal of this paper is to go beyond drawing on distinct disciplinary perspectives to develop a holistic view of extreme wildfire event (EWE) as a social-ecological phenomenon.
This study examines the disconnect between desired outcomes and what we call the “politically possible”.
Results suggest that the replacement of perennial temperate semiarid grasslands by shrubs, or increased biomass, can increase ecological drought in both current and future climates.
This study involved a statewide survey of participants in Oregon forest collaboratives to examine
differences in motivations, perceptions of success, and satisfaction among Forest Service participants (“agency participants”), who made up 31% of the sample, and other respondents (“non-agency”) who represent nonfederal agencies, interest groups, citizens, and non-governmental groups. This study found that agency participants differed from non-agency participants. They typically had higher annual incomes, and were primarily motivated to participate to build trust. However, a majority of all respondents were similar in not indicating any other social or economic motivations as their primary reason for collaborating. A majority also reported satisfaction with their collaborative— despite not ranking collaborative performance on a number of specific potential outcomes highly. Together, this suggests that collaboration in Oregon is currently perceived as successful despite not achieving many specific outcomes.
The vast majority of new WUI areas were the result of new housing (97%), not related to an increase in wildland vegetation. Within the perimeter of recent wildfires (1990–2015), there were 286,000 houses in 2010, compared with 177,000 in 1990.
This study found that compared with fine mastication treatments, coarse treatments took less time to implement and were more cost-effective.
This study compared fire size, seasonality, and environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed, fuel moisture, biomass, vegetation type) of large human- and lighting-started fires that required a suppression response.
State-of-the-art mountaintop cameras from the University of Nevada, Reno, a new and expanding tool for fire mangers who oversee the wildland and wildland/urban interface
The interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, recently directed the agencies in his department to work with states and private landowners to minimize development and disturbance in migration corridors and winter ranges used by elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
Evidence from this analysis shows significant increases in nutrient flux (different forms of nitrogen and phosphorus), major-ion flux and metal concentrations are the most common changes in stream water quality within the first 5 years after fire.
Detection survey efforts to locate incipient infestations of ventenata in sagebrush steppe communities should focus on moist areas and sites susceptible to invasion by T. caput-medusae.
We want to take this opportunity to feature Artemisia tridentata, or the sagebrush plant family.
USGS scientists Lea Condon and David Pyke tested the idea that biotic communities mediate the effects of disturbances such as fire and grazing on site resistance by using structural equation modeling to test relationships between disturbance events, the biotic community, and resistance to cheatgrass invasion.
This study seeks to examine the relationships between a set of NFDRS fire danger indices (Fire Danger Ratings, Staffing Level and the Ignition Component) and measures of fire activity (fire occurrence and final fire size) across the entire conterminous US over an 8-year period.
We evaluated two juniper removal treatments (Fall, Spring) to restore aspen woodlands in southeast Oregon, spanning a 15-year period.
This report found that records across the western US now show declines, of which 33% are significant (vs. 5% expected by chance) and 2% are significant and positive (vs. 5% expected by chance).
This study found that cross-validated results generally indicate a higher occurrence of smaller fires when months preceding fire season are wet, while larger fires are more frequent when soils are dry.
It’s not the way we fight wildfires in the West that’s the problem. The problem is the way we manage our fire-dependent forests.
This analysis relating climate variables to historical fire activity across the United States showed substantial variability in the importance of different seasonal temperature and precipitation variables and of climate overall in explaining fire activity.
Debate as to whether restoration is feasible is coupled to long-standing disputes regarding the definition of restoration, whether more-damaged lands are worthy of restoration efforts given limited financial resources, and ongoing conflicts as to whether the novel ecosystem concept is a help or a hindrance to restoration efforts.
This study informs researchers and practitioners seeking to optimize terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) sampling methods for vegetation monitoring in dryland ecosystems through three analyses.
This project inventoried 97 projects implemented by 32 organizations, most in the last 10 years. We found that beaver-related stream restoration projects undertaken mostly involved the relocation of nuisance beavers.
Using a wet thermal time model for germination prediction, this study estimated progress toward germination (PTG) of 31 seedlots (10 species) as a function of hourly seedbed temperature (> 0 °C) when soils were above a water potential of −1.5 MPa.
This study indicates that wildfire smoke leads to a 4 to 6 percent reduction in birthweight, and these effects are most pronounced among mothers exposed to smoke during the second or the third trimesters of pregnancy.
This study quantifies the effect of seasonal reburns on woody surface fuels, forest floor fuels, and understory tree regeneration abundance in six previously thinned ponderosa pine stands in the southern Blue Mountain Ecoregion of Oregon, USA.
Bureau of Land Management describes the challenge that its staff and a partnership of private landowners, state agencies, conservation groups and more took on when deciding to cooperatively manage a landscape for sage-grouse.
This paper presents a case study to demonstrate the ability of the modeling framework to capture the onset and dynamics of a post-fire dust event and then use the modeling framework to estimate particulate matter (PM) emissions from burn scars left by wildfires in U.S. western sagebrush landscapes during 2012.
The daily probability of a male sage-grouse moving among leks ranged 0.003 in 2011 to 0.010 in 2013, indicating high daily lek ﬁdelity throughout the season, although there was a 5–42% chance annually a male would move at least once to another lek throughout the season.
This was a study of ranchers in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico using Q Methodology to understand their views and motivations about ranching, conservation, and the government.
On a steep (30% ± 5%) slope that had been encroached by piñon and juniper trees, we evaluated the effectiveness of slash in reducing runoff and erosion using a portable rainfall simulator (100-yr return period events).
This study aimed to quantify a direct treatment to reduce or slow down woodland expansion in an experimental rangeland in central Oklahoma, United States under three treatments: 1) herbicide, 2) fire with herbicide, and 3) control (no fire, no herbicide) within areas classified as “open grassland” in 1979.
Models explained much of the variability between predictions and manual measurements, and yet it is expected that future applications could produce even better results by reducing some of the methodological sources of error that we encountered.
This study compared resultant travel rates to LiDAR-derived estimates of slope, vegetation density and ground surface roughness using linear mixed effects modelling to quantify the relationships between these landscape conditions and travel rates.
View the curriculum.
The Fire Science Core Curriculum - Promoting Awareness, Understanding, and Respect of Fire through Knowledge of the Science is designed to teach the basics of fire to non-fire-professionals.
This analysis found that season, plant composition, and ungulate assemblage may all influence dietary competition between wild horses and other large ungulate sharing western North American rangelands
Collectively, these results provide clear evidence that local sage-grouse distributions and demographic rates are influenced by pinyon-juniper, especially in habitats with higher primary productivity but relatively low and seemingly benign tree cover.
As part of an internal program assessment, this study evaluated the extent of fuel treatments and wildfire occurrence within lands managed by the National Forest System (NFS) between 2008 and 2012.
This study found that to retain the shrub, especially sagebrush, components on a site and increase ecosystem resilience and resistance through increases in tall grasses, treatment should occur at low to mid tree dominance index (TDI) using mechanical methods, such as cutting or mastication
This study estimates that fire has approximately twice the treatment life of cutting at time horizons approaching 100 yr, but, has high up-front conservation costs due to temporary loss of sagebrush.
In an experiment replicated at three burned sites in the northern Great Basin, this study compared Wyoming big sagebrush establishment across treatments differing by seed delivery technique, timing, and rate of seed application.
This study found while understory perennial herbaceous plant cover remained low 1 and 2 yr post treatment, it increased by > 700% in all fuel-reduction treatment plots six growing seasons post treatment.
This study examined multiple environmental factors related to climate change that affect cattle production on rangelands to identify sources of vulnerability among seven regions of the western United States.
This paper defines the term ecological drought as an episodic deficit in water availability that drives ecosystems beyond thresholds of vulnerability, impacts ecosystem services, and triggers feedbacks in natural and/or human systems.
Study results from this project suggest that treatments over a 70-year period on public lands in the southwestern United States are shifting toward restoration practices that are increasingly large, expensive, and related to fire and invasive species control.
Skillful seasonal climate forecasts could greatly improve the cost efficiency of management treatments by limiting revegetation activities to time periods where forecasts suggest higher probabilities of successful seedling establishment
Stephen Pyne is Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. This is an abridged version of a piece that appeared on The Conversation; to read the entire piece, go to theconversation.com
In this paper, optimization models successfully identified areas with low conifer canopy cover, high resilience and resistance to wildfire and annual grass invasion, and high bird abundance to enhance sage-grouse habitat. The inclusion of mesic resources resulted in further prioritization of areas that were closer to such resources, but also identified potential pathways that connected breeding habitats to the late brood-rearing habitats associated with mesic areas. Areas identified by optimization models were largely consistent with and overlapped ongoing conifer removal efforts in the Warner Mountains of south-central Oregon. Land ownership of preferential areas selected by models varied with priority goals and followed general ownership patterns of the region, with public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and private lands being selected the most. The increased availability of landscape-level datasets and assessment tools in sagebrush ecosystems can reduce the time and cost of both planning and implementation of habitat projects involving conifer removal. Most importantly, incorporating these new datasets and tools can supplement expert-based knowledge to maximize benefits to sagebrush and sage-grouse conservation.
In North America, decisions about how and when to apply prescribed fire are typically based on the historical-fire-regime concept (HFRC), which holds that replicating the pattern of fires ignited by lightning or preindustrial humans best promotes native species in fire-prone regions. This study found that the practice of inferring historical fire regimes for entire regions or ecosystems often entails substantial uncertainty and can yield equivocal results; ecological outcomes of fire suppression are complex and may not equate to degradation, depending on the ecosystem and context; and habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and other modern factors can interact with fire to produce novel and in some cases negative ecological outcomes. Although the HFRC is a valuable starting point, it should not be viewed as the sole basis for developing prescribed fire programs. Rather, fire prescriptions should also account for other specific, measurable ecological parameters on a case-by-case basis.
The significant variables for the fatal injury model were fire shelter use, slope steepness and flame height. The separation distances needed to ensure no more than a 1 or 5% probability of fatal injury, without the use of a fire shelter, for slopes less than 25% were 20 to 50 m for flame heights less than 10 m, and 1 to 4 times the flame height for flames taller than 10 m. The non-fatal injury model significant variables were fire shelter use, vehicle use and fuel type. At the 1 and 5% probability thresholds for a non-fatal injury, without the use of a fire shelter, the separation distances were 1 to 2, 6 to 7, and 12 to 16 times greater than the current safety zone guideline (i.e. 4 times the flame height) for timber, brush and grass fuel types respectively.
The burnout time for upstream shrubs increased with an increase in shrub separation distance for all shrub sizes and wind speeds considered. The burnout time for the downstream shrub was found to decrease with an increase in the separation distance, reach a minimum, and then increase with an increase in separation distance. The trends observed in burnout times for downstream shrub were attributed to the balance between heat feedback into the downstream shrub from the flames in upstream shrubs and availability of sufficient oxygen for combustion to take place.
This study investigated the relative importance of site productivity and seasonal climate in explaining the variance in recovery time for 36 fires, comprising a fire chrono-sequence (from 1971 to 2007) for the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. A. t. vaseyana recovery was positively related to precipitation in the cool season immediately following fire, likely because deep soil-water recharge that persists throughout the growing season enhances first-year seedling survival. Percentage sand fraction positively correlated with recovery rate yet negatively correlated with live cover in unburnt stands. Our data support the hypothesis that post-fire recovery rate of A. t. vaseyana depends on the climatically controlled ephemerality of the regeneration niche, as is likely true for many arid-land shrub species.
Results show that loss of perennial herbaceous species, which can result from inappropriate livestock grazing, and loss of shrubs, which often results from fire, interact to affect key functional groups. The implications are that ecosystem resilience to disturbance in Cold Desert shrublands decreases when competition from perennial native grasses and forbs for available resources no longer prevents dominance by A. tridentata and other shrubs and/ or annual invasive grasses. Managing livestock grazing to maintain or increase perennial herbaceous species, especially deep-rooted grasses, which contribute to resilience along elevation gradients, can help prevent threshold crossings to undesirable states and retain critical ecosystem services following disturbances such as wildfire.
Among sites with low-to-moderate tree cover, burning largely eliminated differences in understory composition, suggesting that biotic legacies were sufficient to result in predictable trajectories. In contrast, sites with high pre-fire tree cover transitioned into an annual forb-dominated community with sparse vegetation cover, suggesting that the loss of the understory community initiated unpredictable and divergent post-fire trajectories. Because plant communities were still changing four years after fire, it is unclear whether the alternate trajectories in sites with high tree cover will result in the formation of alternate states, or whether community composition will eventually converge with other sites at the same elevation. Results indicate that careful evaluation of site characteristics can be used to predict treatment outcomes at the woodland-shrubland interface, and to guide the appropriate use of prescribed fire or other management practices.
The wide geographic distribution of several common haplotypes almost completely restricted to montane habitats suggests that dominant lineages in montane populations may possess adaptive syndromes that are preserved through reduced outcrossing rates or negative selection on outcrossed progeny. However, conclusive evidence of such local adaptation requires reciprocal seeding experiments and further characterization of adaptive traits and breeding system characteristics. Other lineages have likely risen to dominance in montane populations through selectively neutral processes.
A risk framework for adaptation could integrate key vulnerabilities, risk, and hazards, and facilitate development of adaptation actions that address the entire socio-ecological system. Adaptation plans will need to be developed and implemented with recognition of future uncertainty that necessitates an iterative implementation process as new experience and information accumulate. Developing the skills to manage with uncertainty may be a singularly important strategy that landowners, managers, and scientists require to develop adaptive capacity.
Wildfires across western North America have increased in number and size over the past three decades, and this trend will continue in response to further warming. As a consequence, the wildland–urban interface is projected to experience substantially higher risk of climate-driven fires in the coming decades. Key aspects of an adaptive resilience approach are (i) recognizing that fuels reduction cannot alter regional wildfire trends; (ii) targeting fuels reduction to increase adaptation by some ecosystems and residential communities to more frequent fire; (iii) actively managing more wild and prescribed fires with a range of severities; and (iv) incentivizing and planning residential development to withstand inevitable wildfire. These strategies represent a shift in policy and management from restoring ecosystems based on historical baselines to adapting to changing fire regimes and from unsustainable defense of the wildland–urban interface to developing fire-adapted communities.
This paper presents a simple framework for relating fire danger indices to observed categorical wildland fire behaviour. Ordinal logistic regressions are used to model the probabilities of five distinct fire behaviour categories that are then combined with a safety-based weight function to calculate a Fire Behaviour Risk rating that can plotted over time and spatially mapped. Development and use across three adjacent US National Forests is demonstrated, and predicted fire behaviour risk ratings are compared with observed variations in satellite-measured fire radiative power. This approach transforms fire weather conditions into simple and actionable fire behaviour risk metrics that wildland firefighters can use to support decisions that meet required objectives and keep people safe.
The LANDFIRE program provides a data safety net by producing biannually updated fuels products for all-lands in the United States. But even these data are two to three years old when they are delivered, and while they provide a good starting point, they are designed for national and regional level application. Local review and calibration is recommended to ensure that the data are suitable for smaller landscapes. An example from Idaho illustrates how adjusting LANDFIRE fuel data can ensure that current, accurate fuel information is ready to support fire and land management activities.
Researchers developed landscape-directed dispersal simulations and tested a series of replicates that emulate independent empirical datasets for greater sage-grouse and eastern foxsnake. The study helps establish methods for using liner mixed models to identify the features underlying patterns of dispersal across a variety of landscapes.
Our results suggest that bird communities in piñon-juniper woodlands can be highly stable when management treatments are conducted in areas with more advanced woodland development and at the level of disturbance measured in our study.
This chapter reviews some of the conceptual and technological advancements and provide examples of how they have influenced rangeland monitoring. It then discuss implications of these developments for rangeland management and highlight what are seen as challenges and opportunities for implementing effective rangeland monitoring. It concludes with a vision for how monitoring can contribute to rangeland information needs in the future.
View article. In this study, we present a framework for forecasting large fire occurrence – an extreme value event – and evaluating measures of uncertainties that do not rely on distributional assumptions.
View article. Resource managers often need scientific information to match their decisions (typically short-term and local) to complex, long-term, large-scale challenges such as adaptation to climate change.
This study investigated the effects of mastication and hand-thinning treatments in piñon-juniper (PJ) woodlands on ecological processes including fire, and on a wide range of species, particularly vulnerable PJ obligate birds.
This book adds to current knowledge about the regional status of the sagebrush ecosystem, the distribution of habitats, the threats to the ecosystem, and the influence of threats and habitat conditions on occurrence and abundance of sagebrush associated fauna and flora in the Wyoming Basins.
This meta-analysis was conducted to determine if there were consistent responses of understory vegetation to fire and thinning treatments in North American forests that historically experienced frequent surface fire regimes
This study investigated effects of fall grazing, spring grazing and not grazing on fuel characteristics, fire ignition and initial spread during the wildfire season (July and August) at five shrub steppe sites in Oregon, USA.
This study suggests that policy and management have focused primarily on specified resilience approaches aimed at resistance to wildfire and restoration of areas burned by wildfire through fire suppression and fuels management.
This project examines the weather and climate factors related to known megafires and very large
wildfires that have occurred across the contiguous United States and projects the likelihood of
megafires occurring during the 2046-2065 mid-century time period.
This study used the ecohydrological simulation model SOILWAT to disentangle the contributions of direct climate change effects and of additional indirect, climate change-induced changes in vegetation on soil water availability.
This study examines the drought ﬁre relationship, speciﬁcally the correlations between water balance deﬁcit and annual area burned, across the full gradient of deﬁcit in the western USA, from temperate rainforest to desert.
This study used public land records to characterize livestock grazing across Wyoming, USA, and we used greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as a model organism to evaluate responses to livestock management.
In this study, researchers examined nitrogen cycling rates in sagebrush and cheatgrass-invaded soils over a 100 mile range in the northern Great Basin, adding antibiotics to study the roles that soil fungi and bacteria play in nitrogen transformations.
This study used graph theory, representing priority areas as spatially distributed nodes interconnected by movement corridors, to understand the capacity of priority areas to function as connected networks in the Bi-State, Central, and Washington regions of the Greater Sage-Grouse range.
This study adapted and applied four rangeland health indicators to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program for research locations on the Fishlake National Forest in central Utah.
This study used public land records to characterize livestock grazing across Wyoming, USA, and we used Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as a model organism to evaluate responses to livestock management.
This study analyzed data sets from previous and ongoing studies across the Great Basin characterizing cover response of perennial and annual forbs that are consumed by sage grouse to mechanical, prescribed fire, and low-disturbance fuel reduction treatments.
This handbook walks managers and practitioners through a number of site-specific decisions managers face before selecting the appropriate type of restoration. This site-level decision tool for restoration of sagebrush steppe ecosystems is organized in nine steps.
This paper examines vulnerability in the context of affluence and privilege. It focuses on the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm in California, USA to examine long-term lived experiences of the disaster. Vulnerability is typically understood as a condition besetting poor and marginalized communities. Frequently ignored in these discussions are the experiences of those who live in more affluent areas.
This study found that insects generally reduced the severity of subsequent wildfires. Specific effects varied with insect type and timing, but both insects decreased the abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time lags.
This short synthesis highlights findings of the national Fire and Fire Surrogates Study, which conducted an integrated network of experiments at 13 sites across the United States, many of which took place on National Forest lands. Results suggest that more species increased in number than decreased. For example, researchers reported that populations of western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) increased following prescribed fire; whereas mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) decreased in response to thinning treatments. The positive and negative responses of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), gray-collared chipmunks (Tamias cinereicollis) and least chipmunks (T. minimus) varied among the sites; but the overall biomass of small mammals increased in response to the fire treatments. Researchers also found that small mammals’ responses were related to fire uniformity: the more heterogeneous the post-fire landscape, the greater the proportion of positive responses.
This study found that prescribed fires conducted under favorable conditions (2011) induced potentially positive bighorn responses including high survival and increased use of treated areas. Fires during drought conditions were more widespread with little vegetative response (2012) and coincided with increased bighorn mortality in spring 2013.
This KQED Science article indicates that since 1600, the way humans have used land in the Sierra has had more effect on fire behavior than climate change. Valerie Trouet, associate professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona and lead coauthor of a study about humans and fire, suggests that land managers and owners can affect fire behavior through activities that make forests more resilient.
Climate change is altering the frequency and severity of forest disturbances such as wildfires and bark beetle outbreaks, thereby increasing the potential for sequential disturbances to interact. Interactions can amplify or dampen disturbances, yet the direction and magnitude of future disturbance interactions are difficult to anticipate because underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We tested how variability in postfire forest development affects future susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks, focusing on mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) and Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) in forests regenerating from the large high-severity fires that affected Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 1988. We combined extensive field data on postfire tree regeneration with a well-tested simulation model to assess susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks over 130 y of stand development. Despite originating from the same fire event, among-stand variation in forest structure was very high and remained considerable for over a century. Thus, simulated emergence of stands susceptible to bark beetles was not temporally synchronized but was protracted by several decades, compared with stand development from spatially homogeneous regeneration. Furthermore, because of fire-mediated variability in forest structure, the habitat connectivity required to support broad-scale outbreaks and amplifying cross-scale feedbacks did not develop until well into the second century after the initial burn.
This report makes the case that forest restoration should be at least equal to other land management priorities because large-scale restoration is necessary for the sake of forest ecosystem integrity now and into the future.
This report evaluated how changes in climate in the United States would lead to changes by the middle and the end of the current century in annual spending to suppress wildfires on USDA Forest Service (FS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) managed lands.
In this study, field sampling and analysis were conducted across environmental gradients following the 2007 Tongue-Crutcher Wildfire in southwestern Idaho to determine the conditions most influential in post-fire vegetation recovery patterns. Duff depth and fire severity were determined to be the most influential factors affecting post-fire vegetation response.
This study found that higher moss cover will be achieved quickly with the addition of organic matter and when moss fragments originate from sites with a climate that is similar to that of the restoration site.
Collectively, the data analyzed in this study demonstrate that good condition ungrazed Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities exhibited resilience following fire and maintained a native-dominated mosaic of shrubs, bunchgrasses, and forbs.
This synthesis examines the fundamental spatial and temporal disconnects between the specific policies that have been crafted to address our wildfire challenges and a reorientation of goals to focus on creating an anticipatory wildfire governance system focused on social and ecological resilience.
Findings of this study supports other studies reporting negative impacts of oil and gas development on sage-grouse populations and our modeling approach allowed us to make inference to a longer time scale and larger spatial extent than in previous studies.
This study found two levels of hierarchical genetic subpopulation structure. These subpopulations occupy significantly different elevations and are surrounded by divergent vegetative communities with different dominant subspecies of sagebrush, each with its own chemical defense against herbivory. We propose five management groups reflective of genetic subpopulation structure. These genetic groups are largely synonymous with existing priority areas for conservation. On average, 85.8 % of individuals within each conservation priority area assign to a distinct subpopulation. Our results largely support existing management decisions regarding subpopulation boundaries.
This paper reports that community results from burn treatments can mean an increase in patchy spatial distribution of ectomycorrhiza (EMF). Quick initiation of EMF recolonization is possible depending on the size of high intensity burn patches, proximity of low and unburned soil, and survival of nearby hosts.
This research suggests that widespread environmental change within sagebrush ecosystems, especially the fire-cheatgrass cycle (e.g., invasion of cheatgrass and increased fire frequency) and human land disturbances, are directly and indirectly influencing ground squirrels and badgers.
The paper concludes that though wildfire and invasion by exotic annual grasses may negatively affect other species, harvester ants may indeed be one of the few winners among a myriad of losers linked to vegetation state changes within sagebrush ecosystems.
This study found that to encourage perennial grasses over annual herbaceous species in Wyoming big sagebrush communities, mowing is better suited to locales lacking exotic annuals and retaining ample cover of perennial grasses and sagebrush of smaller size.
This study concluded that, although increases in native species could possibly be obtained by repeating crested wheatgrass control treatments, reducing crested wheatgrass opens a window for invasion by exotic weed species.
This study found that post-fire recovery of big sagebrush in the northern Columbia Basin is a slow process that may require several decades on average, but faster recovery rates may occur under specific site and climate conditions
In this article, authors were able to integrate complex interactions, and visualize the distribution of risk across broad spatial scales, providing land managers and researchers a valuable tool for climate change vulnerability assessments and action plans.
This article reviews trends in aspen science and management, particularly in Utah and highlights recent studies continuing the tradition to keep rangeland managers informed of important developments, focusing on aspen functional types, historical cover change and climate warming, ungulate herbivory, and disturbance interactions.
This paper highlights greater sage-grouse egg depredation observations obtained opportunistically from three common raven nests located in Idaho and Nevada where depredated greater sage-grouse eggs were found at or in the immediate vicinity of the nest site.
This study compared trees in 6- to 28-year-old burned and unburned sites in the third drought year in mixed conifer forests at low elevation in Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite national parks in California, USA. Common conifer species found in the burned plots had significantly reduced probability of mortality compared to unburned plots during the drought. Stand density was significantly lower in burned versus unburned sites, supporting the idea that reduced competition may be responsible for the differential drought mortality response.
This study monitored the habitat-use patterns of 71 radio-marked sage-grouse inhabiting an area affected by wildfire in the Virginia Mountains of northwestern Nevada during 2009–2011. Sage-grouse selected micro-sites with greater shrub canopy cover and less cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) cover than random sites. Total shrub canopy, including sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) and other shrub species, at small spatial scales (0.8 ha and 3.1 ha) was the single contributing selection factor to higher nest survival.
This study found that early seral natives generally outperformed late seral natives when growing with exotics and had earlier emergence timing, although results differed among functional groups and soil types. Survival probabilities, however, did not differ between the early and late seral mixes when growing without exotics.
This study used survey data from three 2010 wildland fires to understand how ecological knowledge and education level affected fire management perception and understanding. Results suggest that education may play a mediating role in understanding complex wildfire issues but is not associated with a better understanding of fire management.
Post-fire recovery of big sagebrush in the northern Columbia Basin is a slow process that may require several decades on average, but faster recovery rates may occur under specific site and climate conditions. Read full article.
This assessment establishes the scientific foundation needed to manage for drought resilience and adaptation. Focal areas include drought characterization; drought impacts on forest processes and disturbances such as insect outbreaks and wildfire; and consequences for forest and rangeland values.
The proposed framework from this study increases the utility of ESDs to assess rangelands, target conservation and restoration practices, and predict ecosystem responses to management. Read full article.
In this Live Science article, Francis Kilkenny, lead of Great Basin Native Plant Project (GBNPP), shares information about the GBNPP and how it continues to support more successful rangeland restoration.
This review discusses how climate change may modify invasive species and the tools used to manage them. It will help guide development of important research questions, the answers to which will better position us to devise and apply meaningful management options to address invasive species in both present and future climates.
Compared with unburned plots, the biomass of cyanobacteria was diminished under juniper and sagebrush; it was reduced in the interspaces in both burned and unburned plots. Nitrogen fixation rates declined over time in juniper plots and interspaces but not in sagebrush plots. Although fire negatively affected some biological soil crust organisms in some parts of the early-seral juniper woodland, the overall impact on the crusts was minimal. Read the full article.
Researchers modeled the climatic envelope for subspecies wyomingensis for contemporary and future climates (decade 2050). This model and its predictions can be used as a restoration-planning tool to assess vulnerability of climatic extirpation over the next few decades. Read full article.
Researchers found that container volume may influence seedling morphology and optimize establishment, while field fertilization, especially during spring outplanting when planting sites have low moisture availability, may hinder first-year survival. Read the full article.
Researchers report a dramatic population number expansion of Salsola ryanii in the decade since it was originally documented. Salsola ryanii has every indication of being just as invasive as its highly invasive parents. Read the full article.
Researchers determined vegetation response to fuel reduction by tree mastication (shredding) or seeding and then shredding. Findings suggested that shredding or seeding and then shredding should facilitate wildfire suppression, increase resistance to weed dominance, and lead toward greater resilience to disturbance by increasing perennial herbaceous cover. Read the full article.
Fires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. They have ignited in the West during the winter and well into the fall, have arrived earlier than ever in Canada and have burned without interruption in Australia for almost 12 months. Read the full New York Times article.
The field of adaptive management has been embraced by researchers and managers in the United States as an approach to improve natural resource stewardship in the face of uncertainty and complex environmental problems. Integrating multiple knowledge sources and feedback mechanisms is an important step in this approach. Our objective is to contribute to the limited literature that describes the benefits of better integrating indigenous knowledge (IK) with other sources of knowledge in making adaptive-management decisions. Specifically, we advocate the integration of traditional phenological knowledge (TPK), a subset of IK, and highlight opportunities for this knowledge to support policy and practice of adaptive management with reference to policy and practice of adapting to uncharacteristic fire regimes and climate change in the western United States.
Read full article.
We examined multiple climate change effects on cattle production for U.S. rangelands to estimate
relative change and identify sources of vulnerability among seven regions. Climate change
effects to 2100 were projected from published models for four elements: forage quantity, vegetation type trajectory, heat stress, and forage variability. Departure of projections from a baseline (2001–2010) was used to estimate vulnerability. Projections show: (1) an increase in forage quantity in northerly regions, (2) a move toward grassier vegetation types overall but with considerable spatial heterogeneity, (3) a rapid increase in the number of heat-stress days across all regions, and (4) higher forage variability for most regions. Results are robust across multiple elements for declining production in southerly and western regions. In northern and interior regions, the benefits of increased net primary productivity or more grassy vegetation are mostly tempered by increases in heat stress and forage variability. Because projected directions of change differed, use of projections for only one element will limit our ability to anticipate impacts and manage for sustained cattle production.
Over the past five years, fires have threatened many Arizona communities, particularly during the driest months of May and June.
Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, hereafter referred to as “sage-grouse”) populations are declining throughout the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem, including millions of acres of potential habitat across the West.
Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, hereafter referred to as “sage-grouse”) are endemic to sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems throughout Western North America.
This program is Utah's interpretation of the National Cohesive Strategy, and takes a holistic approach to effectively reducing the frequency and impact of damaging wildfires. During the initial implementation period, the focus of the program is on fuel treatment projects to restore and maintain resilient landscapes.
Our results indicate that increasing temperature will exacerbate cheatgrass impacts, especially where warming causes large reductions in the depth and duration of snow cover.
The few studies that have attempted to quantify ecosystem service values report said values without strong justification for the defined level of goods and services expected under alternative actions and policies.
Longer term grazing rest has occurred or been proposed in large portions of the sagebrush steppe based on the assumption that it will improve ecosystem properties.
Herbivory and fire are natural interacting forces contributing to the maintenance of rangeland ecosystems. Wildfires in the sagebrush dominated ecosystems of the Great Basin are becoming larger and more frequent, and may dramatically alter plant communities and habitat.
We used 1 year of pre-fire and 4 years of post-fire data to quantify changes in the occurrence of birds at burned and unburned sites in a southern Oregon watershed after a 2500-ha wildfire.
The overarching policy direction in fire management is for increased flexibility, but there are factors that can constrain or facilitate that type of approach. Perhaps most surprising is this study's finding that internal factors like planning documents, and not community and political pressure, are having the biggest influence on fire management strategies.
Overcoming perceptions of wildland-urban interface fire disasters as a wildfire control problem rather than a home ignition problem, determined by home ignition conditions, will reduce home loss.
ARS publication about the effects of a prescribed fire in sagebrush/juniper on livestock distribution. Authors discuss the potential of a fall prescribed fire to draw cattle away from riparian areas.
Abstracts of recent papers on fire and fuels management in the West. Prepared by Craig Goodell, Fire Ecologist, USFS Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR.
The report found that in the study area in eastern Oregon, there were no active sage grouse leks when conifer cover exceeded 4 percent within two-thirds of a mile of a lek location.
Learn about the climate vulnerability assessements, strategic plans, and environmental iniatives undertaken by eight western tribes.
This October 2013 issue of the Grassland, Shrubland, and Desert Ecosystems Update illustrates some of the work from scientists at the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Results suggest sage-grouse incur population-level impacts at very low levels of encroachment, and leks were less likely to be active where smaller trees were dispersed.
Some of these include increased soil water and nutrient availability and increased herbaceous cover and maintenance of shrubs.
We examined stand structure and development of mixed-conifer ecosystems in the south-central Great Basin where pinyon (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) are found together with other species, such as ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), with particular emphasis on pre- and post-settlement conditions.
Researchers measured particulate sediments transported by wind to assess risks to areas downwind of burned rangelands in SE Idaho.
Forbs are important for survival of sage grouse chicks, but it can be hard to grow enough forbs under sagebrush canopies dense enough to meet recommended cover levels. Selective thinning and targeted cattle grazing may offer a path to a win/win solution.
Although new scientific knowledge has reduced barriers to prescribed burning, societal aversion to risk often trumps known, long-term ecological benefits.
When several members of the Society of American Foresters questioned the science and assumptions used to design forest carbon offset projects, the organization decided to convene a task force to examine whether these projects can provide the intended climate benefits.
While fire is widely recognized as an important factor shaping sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems, little is known about the role other natural events play in these systems.
Stands of quaking aspen across North America respond to and are shaped by fire differently. A new classification system based on differences in fire severity and probability helps managers categorize aspen into five fire regimes that reflect the influence of environmental settings, and contribute to aspen communities and successional stages.
A naturally occurring bacteria that shows promise for reducing cheatgrass is being field-tested at Idaho's Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.
In the long term, land managers need to plan for a warmer climate on a time scale of decades, or even a century or more, to better reflect the life span of trees and forests. Studies supported by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) are beginning to provide this type of guidance for managers.
The purpose of this funding is to mitigate risk of wildfires in wildland-urban interface areas. Projects must be implemented on state and/or private lands located in Nevada. Projects on federal lands are not eligible.
Opinion piece in the Denver Post by Lloyd Burton, Professor of law and public policy at the University of Colorado Denver stemming from a 2012 research project from University of Colorado Denver.
Opinion piece in the Washington Post by Crystal Kolden, fire ecologist and assistant professor of geography at the University of Idaho.
The greater sage-grouse, a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 has experienced population declines across its range in the sagebrush steppe ecosystems of western North America.
Climate change is expected to amplify both droughts and wildfires across the western United States.
May 13, 2013
Tang and Arnone, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres Vol. 118, Issue 7,
Published Online: 13 MAY 2013, DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50360
This study analyzed trends in surface air temperature and temperature extremes in the Great Basin during 1901–2010. Researchers found that annual average daily minimum temperature increased significantly (0.9+/-0.20C) during the study period, with daily maximum temperature increasing only slightly. The results of this study suggest that continuation of the overall warming trend would lead to markedly warmer conditions in upcoming decades.
Seeding has little effect on erosion during the first year after fire and is highly dependent upon initial establishment and coverage of species in successive years.
Slickspot soils in arid western North America are saltier than surrounding, dominant soil and support different types of native, rare vegetation. Monitoring slickspots using aerial photographs allowed USGS scientists and collaborators to determine that slickspot sizes were not affected by two sagebrush restoration techniques in the Snake River Plain, ID.
Fire and fuels abstracts for spring 2013, compiled by Craig Goodell, Fire Ecologist, USFS Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR.
Modeling ecological minimum requirements for distribution of greater sage-grouse leks: implications for population connectivity across their western range, U.S.A.
Factors controlling cheatgrass invasions in sagebrush systems, including the influence of livestock grazing, were investigated on 75 sites in the Great Basin
Grasslands are highly valued for their ecosystem services including soil conservation, food and fiber production, and provision of recreation sites and unique wildlife habitat.
This paper demonstrates that mowing degraded Wyoming big sagebrush communities is not a treatment by itself to restore the native herbaceous understory.
Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides [Roemer & J.A. Schultes] Barkworth) is a widely distributed, highly desirable native species in desert ecosystems in the western United States
For several millennia, frequent, low- to moderate-intensity wildfire has sculpted seasonally dry forests in the southern, eastern, and western United States.
A three-step process is described to reduce crested wheatgrass competition, introduce desired species, and manage to maintain desired species for use long term.
Effective control methods need to be developed to reduce crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertner) monocultures and promote the establishment of native species.
Greenhouse experiments using an addition-series design to characterize interference between crested wheatgrass and four key native species.
Investigation of downy brome and seeded species responses to variable rates of imazapic in two plant communities (salt desert shrub and Wyoming big sagebrush).