Location: Northwest Watershed Management Research
Title: Runoff and erosion responses on burned and unburned sagebrush steppe and wooded shrublands in the Great Basin, USA Authors
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 11, 2011
Publication Date: November 14, 2011
Citation: Pierson, F.B., Williams, C.J., Kormos, P.R., and Al-Hamdan, O.Z. 2011. Runoff and Erosion Responses on Burned and Unburned Sagebrush Steppe and Wooded Shrublands in the Great Basin, USA. In: Abstracts of the Association for Fire Ecology Interior West Conference, November 14-17, 2011, Snowbird, UT. Technical Abstract: Cheatgrass and tree invasions of sagebrush steppe rangelands in the Great Basin have increased the risk of occurrence of large, high severity fires. Fire and woodland encroachment have been linked to amplified runoff and erosion. Runoff and erosion can increase by factors of 2 to more than 100 immediately following burning of sagebrush steppe. Amplified runoff and erosion from sagebrush steppe following woodland encroachment occurs where shrub and herbaceous species decline and rock cover and bare soil area increase and become more interconnected. Runoff and erosion generally increase exponentially on wooded shrublands where bare soil and rock cover exceeded 50%. Fire removal of the limited cover potentially exacerbates already high runoff and erosion rates from these ecosystems. However, fire removal of tree cover may promote understory development, thereby restoring shrub steppe structure and ecological function and reducing long-term runoff and erosion. This study investigates short-term hydrologic response to burning of historical sagebrush steppe in the Great Basin. Rainfall simulation and concentrated flow experiments were conducted pre- and one and two years post-fire to evaluate the effects of burning on runoff and erosion. We present results in context of the effects of wildland fire and the use of prescribed fire as a tool to manage woodland encroachment in the Great Basin.