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Yellowstone fire history and fire ecology - Insights 27 years after the 1988 fires

Author(s): Corey L. Gucker
Year Published: 2016

In 1988, fires burned 36% (about 800,000 acres) of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). At the time, the size and severity of these fires was greater than scientists and land managers were used to and they were attributed to excessive fuel loadings that were a result of past fire suppression. However, fire history and fire ecology studies, which were underway as the area’s high-elevation, lodge-pole pine (Pinus contorta)-dominated forests burned, showed that infrequent, large, stand-replacing fires were part of the Park’s natural history. Large, severe fires in this ecosystem occurred every 100 to 300 years and were linked with drought conditions and extreme fire weather, which suggested that fires were more dependent on climate than on fuels accumulated as a result of fire suppression. Since 1988, multiple fire studies have investigated the fire history, fire recovery, and future fire predictions for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and it was these and the experiences of YNP managers that served as the backdrop for the Northern Rockies Fire Science Network’s Fire History and Fire Ecology Field Tour of Yellowstone.

Citation: Gucker, Corey L. 2016. Yellowstone fire history and fire ecology - Insights 12 years after the 1988 fires. Northern Rockies Fire Science Network Field Trip Summary No. 9: Yellowstone Field Tour. 2015 October 1-2. Yellowstone National Park.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Resilience, Fire History, Recovery after fire
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest
Document Type: Research Brief or Fact Sheet
NRFSN number: 14651
Record updated: May 24, 2018