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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #323020

Title: Adding Fuel to the Fire: The Contribution of Perennial Bunchgrasses in Altering Fire Regimes in the Great Basin

item BOWMAN, CHRISTOPHER - University Of Idaho
item Newingham, Beth

Submitted to: Fire Ecology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/15/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Abstract only.

Technical Abstract: The historic fire return interval in Wyoming sagebrush ecosystems has been estimated in the hundreds of years; however, the current fire regime has shifted to short fire return intervals with some areas burning six times in the past 60 years. Invasive annual grasses (e.g. Bromus tectorum) are frequently cited as the primary reason for this fire regime shift by creating fine, continuous fuels; however, high densities of bunchgrasses may also contribute to continuous, fine fuel loads. We used data detailing fire and BLM rehabilitation treatment history to assess the impact of the shift in vegetation from sagebrush to nonnative perennial bunchgrass communities on fire return and number of fires. We extracted fire and rehabilitation history from randomly selected sites across 209,000 ha and analyzed their relationship to plant cover and density at 68 sites using generalized linear models. Bromus tectorum cover did not vary with fire number or time since sagebrush removal, but Agropyron cristatum cover increased with time since planting and with fire number. Our data suggest that planting fire resilient species, such as A. cristatum, may further shift fire regimes in southern Idaho rangelands and put adjacent intact native vegetation at risk of burning in future fires.