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Mapping the cheatgrass-caused departure from historical natural fire regimes in the Great Basin, USA

Author(s): James P. Menakis, Dianne Osborne, Melanie Miller
Year Published: 2003

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an exotic grass that has increased fire hazard on millions of square kilometers of semi-arid rangelands in the western United States. Cheatgrass aggressively out competes native vegetation after fire and significantly enhances fire size and frequency. To evaluate the effect of cheatgrass on historical natural fire regimes, we combined cheatgrass data mapped from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer images of the Great Basin with Fire Regime Condition Class (FRCC) data mapped from plant succession data incorporated with several spatial data layers for the conterminous United States. These FRCCs depict the degree of departure from historical fire regimes resulting in alterations of key ecosystem components such as species composition, structural stage, stand age, and canopy closure. While the FRCC data layer adequately depicted forest communities, it insufficiently depicted grassland and shrubland communities. By adding cheatgrass, FRCC 3 (areas that have been significantly altered from their historical range) increased by 20 percent on Federal lands to almost 60,522 square kilometers for the conterminous United States.

Citation: Menakis, James P.; Osborne, Dianne; Miller, Melanie. 2003. Mapping the cheatgrass-caused departure from historical natural fire regimes in the Great Basin, USA. In: Omi, Philip N.; Joyce, Linda A., tech. eds. Fire, fuel treatments, and ecological restoration, conference proceedings. 2002 April 16-18; Fort Collins, CO. Proceedings RMRS-P-29. Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 281-287.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Ecosystem Changes, Composition, Invasive Species, Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Fire Return Intervals, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order
Ecosystem(s): Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna, Juniper woodland, Mountain shrubland/wooded draw, Sagebrush steppe
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 11490
FRAMES RCS number: 13211
Record updated: May 24, 2018