Ranunculus glaberrimus


Table of Contents


INTRODUCTORY


 
Photo by Paul Slichter, Flora and Fauna Northwest

AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Meyer, Rachelle. 2012. Ranunculus glaberrimus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [ ].

Revisions:
01 August 2013: Distributional map from PLANTS Database added.

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
RANGLA

COMMON NAMES:
sagebrush buttercup
shiny-leaved buttercup
early buttercup

TAXONOMY:
The scientific name of sagebrush buttercup is Ranunculus glaberrimus Hook. (Ranunculaceae). Recognized varieties are as follows [10,19,30]:

Ranunculus glaberrimus var. ellipticus (Greene) Green, elliptical buttercup
Ranunculus glaberrimus var. glaberrimus, typical variety

SYNONYMS:
None

LIFE FORM:
Forb

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Ranunculus glaberrimus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. (2013, August 1).

Sagebrush buttercup is native to the United States and Canada. It occurs in portions of all the western United States east to Nebraska, the Dakotas [8,14,19,26,50], and from British Columbia [14,20] to southern Saskatchewan [42]. Elliptical buttercup is more widespread in the eastern areas of this distribution and may be the only variety that occurs in Colorado [23,48,49] and North Dakota [23,36]. Kartesz [23] considers the typical variety absent from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, other floras do not describe such a restricted range for the typical variety. For instance, Munz and Keck [36] list the typical variety in New Mexico and Nebraska.

States and provinces [45]:
United States: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Canada: AB, BC, SK

SITE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Sagebrush buttercup is fairly widespread throughout its range and occurs in a number of plant communities from low-elevation sagebrush  (Artemisia spp.)-grasslands to alpine meadows. Its elevation ranges from less than 900 feet (270 m) in California to over 10,000 feet (3,050 m) in Colorado and Wyoming [9]. See Table 1 for information on occurrence at varying elevations across its range.

Site characteristics: The 2 varieties seldom occur on the same site [19]. The typical variety grows on drier sites and at lower elevations [8]. In west-central Montana, the typical variety is most common in dry, open valleys and foothills [26]. Elliptical buttercup occurs in more montane areas [19,26].

Table 1: Elevational ranges of the 2 sagebrush buttercup varieties by state. Dashes mean no information is available for that location and/or variety.
State General elevation Typical variety Elliptical buttercup
California about 5,000 feet
(1,520 m) [36]
900 to 3,300 feet
(270-1,000 m)
900 to 3,500 feet
(270-1,070 m) [18]
Colorado --- --- 5,000 to 10,000 feet
(1,520-3,050 m) [9,17]
Montana --- 3,200 to 5,000 feet
(980-1,520 m)
3,200 to 9,000 feet
(980-2,740 m) [9]
Nevada --- up to 5,500 feet
(1,680 m)
5,000 to 9,000 feet
(1,520-2,740 m) [24]
New Mexico --- --- 7,000 to 8,500 feet
(2,130-2,590 m) [33]
Utah 4,800 to 10,000 feet
(1,460-3,050 m) [50]
5,000 to 6,800 feet
(1,520-2,100 m)
5,500 to 9,000 feet
(1,680-2,750 m)
Wyoming --- --- 6,600 to 11,600 feet
(2,010-3,540 m) [9]

Sagebrush buttercup grows on sandy [4,24,36] or loamy soils [8].Growth on clay is described as fair to good, and growth on gravel as fair to poor. Optimum soil depth is 20 inches (51 cm) or more [9]. In southern Alberta, sites with sagebrush buttercup had well-drained soils [4].

In New Mexico sagebrush buttercup was described as occurring on wet ground [33], and in southeastern Washington and adjacent Idaho it might be abundant in moist places in the early spring [47]. In southern Alberta, sites with sagebrush buttercup were mesic [4].

Plant communities: Sagebrush buttercup is common throughout many plant communities including open woodlands [41], shrublands [5,34], grasslands [4,5,6,34], and subalpine [41] and alpine [42] meadows. It is most often associated with ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)[7,11,14,19,50] and sagebrush communities [5,18,19,20,24,31,36,48,50], including those dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) [53] and mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. vaseyana) [13]. It is also present in woodland and forested communities comprised of fir and spruce (Abies-Picea spp.) [8], Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesia) [7,50], lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) [39,50], juniper (Juniperus spp.) [19], or quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) [31,48,50].

The typical variety most commonly grows in lowland valleys in sagebrush and grassland communities or in parklands or open woodlands, while elliptical buttercup generally occurs in higher-elevation communities [18,19,24,36] such as upland sagebrush [19,24,36], mountain meadows [24,36], and montane coniferous forests [36]. These forests may be dominated by ponderosa pine [19,24], juniper [19], Jeffrey pine (P. jeffreyi), fir, and/or spruce [8].

See the Fire Regime Table for a list of plant communities in which sagebrush buttercup may occur and information on the fire regimes associated with those communities.

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Ranunculus glaberrimus
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Botanical description: This description covers characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g., [14,18,19,20,23,33]).

Sagebrush buttercup is a perennial forb [4,18,26,50]. It typically grows 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) tall [19,44,46], but may grow to 10 inches (26 cm) tall [18]. The stems are erect to prostrate, 2 to 8 inches (5-20 cm) long [14,19], and do not root at the nodes [19,26,50]. Sagebrush buttercup has a cluster of fleshy [4,14,18,19,26], fibrous [4] roots 2 to 3 mm thick [14,19]. The mostly basal leaves are broad and rounded or ovate, with margins entire to lobed [14,19,20]. When present, the cauline leaves are generally dissected into 2 or 3 lobes [14,18,50]. The 5 sepals are commonly purplish-tinged [4,19,26]. The flowers occur singly, are 10 to 20 mm in diameter, and have 5 yellow petals [4]. Flowers in the Ranunculus genus are perfect [14,50]. Each sagebrush buttercup achene contains one seed [4]. From 30 to 180 achenes [4,14,19,50] occur in a semiglobose cluster at the top of the flower stalk. Achenes are slightly winged ventrally [14].

The main differences in appearance between the varieties are related to leaf shape [19,42]. Elliptical buttercup has entire, elliptic to oblanceolate basal leaves, while the typical variety has ovate to obovate, shallowly lobed basal leaves [14,17,19,26,33,48,50]. Variability between the 2 varieties makes distinguishing them difficult, especially in areas such as west-central Montana, where numerous transition forms occur [26].

Raunkiaer [38] life form:
Chamaephyte
Geophyte
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
  Lynne Robinson, www.rickandlynne.com

Sagebrush buttercup is a cool-season species that flowers in early spring [44,46,47,48,49]. It is the first flower of spring throughout most of its range. Flowering generally begins in March [29] or April, but the length of flowering is variable [9]. It has flowered as early as January near Reno, Nevada [8], and in west-central Montana [26]. Growth is generally completed by midsummer [44].

Timing of flowering may be influenced by weather conditions including temperature and snow fall the previous winter. Sagebrush buttercup was 1 of 8 species that exhibited earlier (P<0.017) flowering over the course of a study that ran from 1995 to 2008 [29], a period of increasing average temperatures (IPCC 2007b cited in [29]). The amount of snowfall in the previous January and December was negatively associated (P=0.007) with average first-flowering date of the 8 species. March temperatures were also significantly (P=0.021) associated with mean first-flowering date of the 8 species, with first-flowering increasing by 1.5 days with every 1 °C increase in temperature [29]. In a big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) community in southern British Columbia, growth of sagebrush buttercup and 4 other spring ephemerals was completed 1 month earlier in a year with a dry April compared to the previous year, in which April precipitation was above average [37].

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Sagebrush buttercup regenerates sexually through seeds and vegetatively through root sprouting [9] and division of mature plants [4]. Some species in the Ranunculus genus have seeds that are dispersed by ants [2], although whether this applies to sagebrush buttercup is unknown. Information on its ability to establish a seed bank was unknown as of 2012.

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
The communities sagebrush buttercup occurs in suggest that it prefers areas that are at least partially open (see Plant communities). In southeastern Washington and adjacent Idaho, sagebrush buttercup was more abundant in open areas than in dense mountain shrublands [47].

FIRE EFFECTS AND MANAGEMENT

SPECIES: Ranunculus glaberrimus
FIRE EFFECTS: Immediate fire effect on plant: Fire likely top-kills sagebrush buttercup. Because it flowers early in the year and disappears before midsummer [44], sagebrush buttercup is dormant when most fires occur in the plant communities it inhabits.

Postfire regeneration strategy [43]:
Caudex or an herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
Possible:
Initial off-site colonizer (off site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on- or off-site seed sources)

Fire adaptations and plant response to fire:
Fire adaptations: Little is known about the adaptations of sagebrush buttercup to fire. It is known to sprout in response to disturbance [9,53]. Wrobleski [53] categorized sagebrush buttercup as a species that can "endure" fire.

Plant response to fire: Relatively little is known about the manner in which sagebrush buttercup responds to fire, but it likely sprouts from the roots after fire. Postfire establishment from seed is also possible, although to date (2012), no information on sagebrush buttercup's ability to establish from seed was available (see Regeneration Processes).

In a western Montana study, sagebrush buttercup was present on first-year burn plots in grassland communities, while absent from adjacent unburned plots [35]. It was listed as occurring in vegetation that develops after fire or clearcutting in lodgepole pine in southern Wyoming [31]. In a Wyoming big sagebrush site in central Oregon, cover of perennial forbs, including sagebrush buttercup, recovered to prefire levels by the 2nd year after a fall prescribed fire. Differences in perennial forb cover between burned and unburned control plots were not significant. Crude protein levels of perennial forbs on this site were significantly higher on the burned site than on the control in the 2nd postfire year (P=0.011) but not in later years [40].

FUELS AND FIRE REGIMES:
Sagebrush buttercup contributes little to fuels and is a component of communities with varied fire regimes.

Fire regimes: Because sagebrush buttercup occurs in a variety of communities, it is subject to many different fire regimes ranging from surface fires every 8 to 10 years in some ponderosa pine woodlands to stand-replacement fires every few hundred years in certain lodgepole pine stands (see the Fire Regime Table). The fire seasons in these communities vary as well. Generally, the start of the fire season in the western United States occurs earlier than it did historically, primarily because of increased spring temperatures and earlier snow melts [3,51]. In 1970 the start of the first large wildfire (>1,000 acres (400 ha)) on Forest Service lands in the western states was in May. Since then, the first large fire has tended to occur earlier, with the first large wildfire in 2010 starting in March [3]. For information on fire regimes of communities were sagebrush buttercup occurs, see the Fire Regime Table and FEIS reviews of dominant species such as Pacific and interior ponderosa pines, Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine, Wyoming big sagebrush, and mountain big sagebrush.

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Since data are lacking to date (2012), it would be ill-advised to make generalized conclusions regarding sagebrush buttercup's response to fire. Given that sagebrush buttercup typically begins growth before the beginning of the fire season throughout much of its range and that it may sprout following damage, negative impacts of fire on sagebrush buttercup are probably unlikely. Fires occurring in late winter or early spring, when sagebrush buttercup begins growth, could potentially have larger impacts than those that occur later in the year. Even if most or all sagebrush buttercups on a site are able to survive early spring fires, seed production may be impacted for at least the first postfire year.

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Ranunculus glaberrimus
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
None

OTHER STATUS:
Information on state- and province-level protection status of plants in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.

IMPORTANCE TO WILDLIFE AND LIVESTOCK:
Sagebrush buttercup provides food to several wildlife species in early spring.

Palatability and nutritional value: The various parts of buttercups (Ranunculus) are eaten by many wildlife species including ducks, upland game birds, small mammals, and hoofed browsers [32]. Wildlife species generally use sagebrush buttercup early in the year because palatability decreases as it matures [44] and more preferred forage species are not yet available [8]. Sagebrush buttercup is a component of the sharp-tailed [12] and greater sage-grouse [15] diets. In southeastern Oregon and northwestern Nevada, sagebrush buttercup occurred in more than 15% of preincubating female greater sage-grouse crops from mid-March to mid-April, although it never comprised more than 3% of the aggregate percent dry mass. Sagebrush buttercup had high levels of calcium and phosphorus compared to low sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula) [15]. In Montana, sagebrush buttercup comprised up to 3% of the volume of mule deer diets [21,52] and was present in 17% of mule deer rumens collected in spring [21]. Sagebrush buttercup was ranked as a low-quality elk food in spring and summer in the Gallatin River drainage of southern Montana [25] and excellent forage for pronghorn in Nevada (Einarsen 1948 cited in [16]). In contrast, ratings for elliptical buttercup for livestock and wildlife in the western United States were generally only poor to fair [9].

Domestic livestock eat sagebrush buttercup during the early spring, although plants are usually gone before these animals reach the range [44]. All species of Ranunculus have an "acrid taste" and, depending on the species, plant part, and season, may be toxic to cattle and horses. The toxic substances are volatile, however, and are dissipated during the drying process, which renders them nontoxic in hay [44].

Cover value: Due to its small stature, prostrate growth form, and patchy distribution, sagebrush buttercup provides little cover for wildlife.

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
In a bluebunch wheatgrass mountain grassland of southeastern Washington, sagebrush buttercup occurred on 2 sites at intermediate levels of grazing, while it did not occur on the site that had been grazed most heavily or the site that was ungrazed for at least 27 years [6].

APPENDIX: FIRE REGIME TABLE

SPECIES: Ranunculus glaberrimus
The following table provides fire regime information that may be relevant to sagebrush buttercup habitats. Follow the links in the table to documents that provide more detailed information on these fire regimes.

Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which sagebrush buttercup may occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [28], which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.
Pacific Northwest California Southwest Great Basin
Northern and Central Rockies Northern Great Plains    
Pacific Northwest
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Pacific Northwest Grassland
Alpine and subalpine meadows and grasslands Replacement 68% 350 200 500
Mixed 32% 750 500 >1,000
Bluebunch wheatgrass Replacement 47% 18 5 20
Mixed 53% 16 5 20
Idaho fescue grasslands Replacement 76% 40    
Mixed 24% 125    
Pacific Northwest Shrubland
Low sagebrush Replacement 41% 180    
Mixed 59% 125    
Mountain big sagebrush (cool sagebrush) Replacement 100% 20 10 40
Wyoming big sagebrush semidesert Replacement 86% 200 30 200
Mixed 9% >1,000 20  
Surface or low 5% >1,000 20  
Wyoming big sagebrush steppe Replacement 89% 92 30 120
Mixed 11% 714 120  
Pacific Northwest Woodland
Oregon white oak Replacement 3% 275    
Mixed 19% 50    
Surface or low 78% 12.5    
Oregon white oak-ponderosa pine Replacement 16% 125 100 300
Mixed 2% 900 50  
Surface or low 81% 25 5 30
Ponderosa pine Replacement 5% 200    
Mixed 17% 60    
Surface or low 78% 13    
Ponderosa pine savannah (ultramafic) Replacement 7% 200 100 300
Surface or low 93% 15 10 20
Subalpine woodland Replacement 21% 300 200 400
Mixed 79% 80 35 120
Western juniper (pumice) Replacement 33% >1,000    
Mixed 67% 500    
Pacific Northwest Forested
Douglas-fir (Willamette Valley foothills) Replacement 18% 150 100 400
Mixed 29% 90 40 150
Surface or low 53% 50 20 80
Douglas-fir-western hemlock (dry mesic) Replacement 25% 300 250 500
Mixed 75% 100 50 150
Douglas-fir-western hemlock (wet mesic) Replacement 71% 400    
Mixed 29% >1,000    
Lodgepole pine (pumice soils) Replacement 78% 125 65 200
Mixed 22% 450 45 85
Mixed conifer (eastside dry) Replacement 14% 115 70 200
Mixed 21% 75 70 175
Surface or low 64% 25 20 25
Mixed conifer (eastside mesic) Replacement 35% 200    
Mixed 47% 150    
Surface or low 18% 400    
Mixed conifer (southwestern Oregon) Replacement 4% 400    
Mixed 29% 50    
Surface or low 67% 22    
Ponderosa pine (xeric) Replacement 37% 130    
Mixed 48% 100    
Surface or low 16% 300    
Ponderosa pine, dry (mesic) Replacement 5% 125    
Mixed 13% 50    
Surface or low 82% 8    
Spruce-fir Replacement 84% 135 80 270
Mixed 16% 700 285 >1,000
Subalpine fir Replacement 81% 185 150 300
Mixed 19% 800 500 >1,000
California
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
California Grassland
Alpine meadows and barrens Replacement 100% 200 200 400
California grassland Replacement 100% 2 1 3
Wet mountain meadow-lodgepole pine (subalpine) Replacement 21% 100    
Mixed 10% 200    
Surface or low 69% 30    
California Woodland
California oak woodlands Replacement 8% 120    
Mixed 2% 500    
Surface or low 91% 10    
Ponderosa pine Replacement 5% 200    
Mixed 17% 60    
Surface or low 78% 13    
California Forested
Aspen with conifer Replacement 24% 155 50 300
Mixed 15% 240    
Surface or low 61% 60    
California mixed evergreen Replacement 10% 140 65 700
Mixed 58% 25 10 33
Surface or low 32% 45 7  
Jeffrey pine Replacement 9% 250    
Mixed 17% 130    
Surface or low 74% 30    
Interior white fir (northeastern California) Replacement 47% 145    
Mixed 32% 210    
Surface or low 21% 325    
Red fir-western white pine Replacement 16% 250    
Mixed 65% 60 25 80
Surface or low 19% 200    
Red fir-white fir Replacement 13% 200 125 500
Mixed 36% 70    
Surface or low 51% 50 15 50
Sierra Nevada lodgepole pine (cold wet upper montane) Replacement 23% 150 37 764
Mixed 70% 50    
Surface or low 7% 500    
Sierra Nevada lodgepole pine (dry subalpine) Replacement 11% 250 31 500
Mixed 45% 60 31 350
Surface or low 45% 60 9 350
Southwest
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Southwest Grassland
Desert grassland Replacement 85% 12    
Surface or low 15% 67    
Desert grassland with shrubs and trees Replacement 85% 12    
Mixed 15% 70    
Montane and subalpine grasslands Replacement 55% 18 10 100
Surface or low 45% 22    
Montane and subalpine grasslands with shrubs or trees Replacement 30% 70 10 100
Surface or low 70% 30    
Plains mesa grassland Replacement 81% 20 3 30
Mixed 19% 85 3 150
Plains mesa grassland with shrubs or trees Replacement 76% 20    
Mixed 24% 65    
Shortgrass prairie Replacement 87% 12 2 35
Mixed 13% 80    
Shortgrass prairie with shrubs Replacement 80% 15 2 35
Mixed 20% 60    
Shortgrass prairie with trees Replacement 80% 15 2 35
Mixed 20% 60    
Southwest Shrubland
Desert shrubland without grass Replacement 52% 150    
Mixed 48% 165    
Low sagebrush shrubland Replacement 100% 125 60 150
Mountain-mahogany shrubland Replacement 73% 75    
Mixed 27% 200    
Mountain sagebrush (cool sagebrush) Replacement 75% 100    
Mixed 25% 300    
Southwestern shrub steppe Replacement 72% 14 8 15
Mixed 13% 75 70 80
Surface or low 15% 69 60 100
Southwestern shrub steppe with trees Replacement 52% 17 10 25
Mixed 22% 40 25 50
Surface or low 25% 35 25 100
Southwest Woodland
Pinyon-juniper (mixed fire regime) Replacement 29% 430    
Mixed 65% 192    
Surface or low 6% >1,000    
Pinyon-juniper (rare replacement fire regime) Replacement 76% 526    
Mixed 20% >1,000    
Surface or low 4% >1,000    
Ponderosa pine/grassland (Southwest) Replacement 3% 300    
Surface or low 97% 10    
Riparian deciduous woodland Replacement 50% 110 15 200
Mixed 20% 275 25  
Surface or low 30% 180 10  
Southwest Forested
Aspen, stable without conifers Replacement 81% 150 50 300
Surface or low 19% 650 600 >1,000
Aspen with spruce-fir Replacement 38% 75 40 90
Mixed 38% 75 40  
Surface or low 23% 125 30 250
Lodgepole pine (Central Rocky Mountains, infrequent fire) Replacement 82% 300 250 500
Surface or low 18% >1,000 >1,000 >1,000
Ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir (southern Rockies) Replacement 15% 460    
Mixed 43% 160    
Surface or low 43% 160    
Ponderosa pine-Gambel oak (southern Rockies and Southwest) Replacement 8% 300    
Surface or low 92% 25 10 30
Riparian forest with conifers Replacement 100% 435 300 550
Southwest mixed conifer (cool, moist with aspen) Replacement 29% 200 80 200
Mixed 35% 165 35  
Surface or low 36% 160 10  
Southwest mixed conifer (warm, dry with aspen) Replacement 7% 300    
Mixed 13% 150 80 200
Surface or low 80% 25 2 70
Spruce-fir Replacement 96% 210 150  
Mixed 4% >1,000 35 >1,000
Great Basin
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Great Basin Grassland
Great Basin grassland Replacement 33% 75 40 110
Mixed 67% 37 20 54
Mountain meadow (mesic to dry) Replacement 66% 31 15 45
Mixed 34% 59 30 90
Great Basin Shrubland
Basin big sagebrush Replacement 80% 50 10 100
Mixed 20% 200 50 300
Black and low sagebrushes Replacement 33% 243 100  
Mixed 67% 119 75 140
Black and low sagebrushes with trees Replacement 37% 227 150 290
Mixed 63% 136 50 190
Blackbrush Replacement 100% 833 100 >1,000
Creosotebush shrublands with grasses Replacement 57% 588 300 >1,000
Mixed 43% 769 300 >1,000
Curlleaf mountain-mahogany Replacement 31% 250 100 500
Mixed 37% 212 50  
Surface or low 31% 250 50  
Gambel oak Replacement 75% 50    
Mixed 25% 150    
Interior Arizona chaparral Replacement 88% 46 25 100
Mixed 12% 350    
Montane chaparral Replacement 37% 93    
Mixed 63% 54    
Mountain big sagebrush Replacement 100% 48 15 100
Mountain big sagebrush (cool sagebrush) Replacement 75% 100    
Mixed 25% 300    
Mountain big sagebrush with conifers Replacement 100% 49 15 100
Mountain shrubland with trees Replacement 22% 105 100 200
Mixed 78% 29 25 100
Wyoming big sagebrush semidesert Replacement 86% 200 30 200
Mixed 9% >1,000 20 >1,000
Surface or low 5% >1,000 20 >1,000
Wyoming big sagebrush semidesert with trees Replacement 84% 137 30 200
Mixed 11% >1,000 20 >1,000
Surface or low 5% >1,000 20 >1,000
Wyoming big sagebrush steppe Replacement 89% 92 30 120
Mixed 11% 714 120  
Great Basin Woodland
Juniper and pinyon-juniper steppe woodland Replacement 20% 333 100 >1,000
Mixed 31% 217 100 >1,000
Surface or low 49% 135 100  
Ponderosa pine Replacement 5% 200    
Mixed 17% 60    
Surface or low 78% 13    
Great Basin Forested
Aspen with conifer (low to midelevations) Replacement 53% 61 20  
Mixed 24% 137 10  
Surface or low 23% 143 10  
Aspen with conifer (high elevations) Replacement 47% 76 40  
Mixed 18% 196 10  
Surface or low 35% 100 10  
Aspen-cottonwood, stable aspen without conifers Replacement 31% 96 50 300
Surface or low 69% 44 20 60
Aspen, stable without conifers Replacement 81% 150 50 300
Surface or low 19% 650 600 >1,000
Aspen with spruce-fir Replacement 38% 75 40 90
Mixed 38% 75 40  
Surface or low 23% 125 30 250
Douglas-fir (Great Basin, dry) Replacement 12% 90   600
Mixed 14% 76 45  
Surface or low 75% 14 10 50
Douglas-fir (interior, warm mesic) Replacement 28% 170 80 400
Mixed 72% 65 50 250
Ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir Replacement 10% 250   >1,000
Mixed 51% 50 50 130
Surface or low 39% 65 15  
Ponderosa pine, interior Replacement 5% 161   800
Mixed 10% 80 50 80
Surface or low 86% 9 8 10
Spruce-fir-pine (subalpine) Replacement 98% 217 75 300
Mixed 2% >1,000    
Northern and Central Rockies
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Northern and Central Rockies Grassland
Mountain grassland Replacement 60% 20 10  
Mixed 40% 30    
Northern prairie grassland Replacement 55% 22 2 40
Mixed 45% 27 10 50
Northern and Central Rockies Shrubland
Basin big sagebrush Replacement 60% 100 10 150
Mixed 40% 150    
Riparian (Wyoming) Mixed 100% 100 25 500
Low sagebrush shrubland Replacement 100% 125 60 150
Mountain big sagebrush steppe and shrubland Replacement 100% 70 30 200
Mountain shrub, nonsagebrush Replacement 80% 100 20 150
Mixed 20% 400    
Wyoming big sagebrush Replacement 63% 145 80 240
Mixed 37% 250    
Northern and Central Rockies Woodland
Ancient juniper Replacement 100% 750 200 >1,000
Northern and Central Rockies Forested
Douglas-fir (cold) Replacement 31% 145 75 250
Mixed 69% 65 35 150
Douglas-fir (warm mesic interior) Replacement 28% 170 80 400
Mixed 72% 65 50 250
Douglas-fir (xeric interior) Replacement 12% 165 100 300
Mixed 19% 100 30 100
Surface or low 69% 28 15 40
Grand fir-Douglas-fir-western larch mix Replacement 29% 150 100 200
Mixed 71% 60 3 75
Grand fir-lodgepole pine-western larch-Douglas-fir Replacement 31% 220 50 250
Mixed 69% 100 35 150
Lodgepole pine, lower subalpine Replacement 73% 170 50 200
Mixed 27% 450 40 500
Lodgepole pine, persistent Replacement 89% 450 300 600
Mixed 11% >1,000    
Lower subalpine (Wyoming and Central Rockies) Replacement 100% 175 30 300
Mixed-conifer upland western redcedar-western hemlock Replacement 67% 225 150 300
Mixed 33% 450 35 500
Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, low elevation) Replacement 7% 300 200 400
Mixed 21% 100 50 400
Surface or low 71% 30 5 50
Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, high elevation) Replacement 12% 300    
Mixed 18% 200    
Surface or low 71% 50    
Ponderosa pine (Northern and Central Rockies) Replacement 4% 300 100 >1,000
Mixed 19% 60 50 200
Surface or low 77% 15 3 30
Ponderosa pine (Northern Great Plains) Replacement 5% 300    
Mixed 20% 75    
Surface or low 75% 20 10 40
Ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir Replacement 10% 250   >1,000
Mixed 51% 50 50 130
Surface or low 39% 65 15  
Western larch-lodgepole pine-Douglas-fir Replacement 33% 200 50 250
Mixed 67% 100 20 140
Whitebark pine-lodgepole pine (upper subalpine, Northern and Central Rockies) Replacement 38% 360    
Mixed 62% 225    
Upper subalpine spruce-fir (Central Rockies) Replacement 100% 300 100 600
Western redcedar Replacement 87% 385 75 >1,000
Mixed 13% >1,000 25  
Northern Great Plains
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Northern Plains Grassland
Northern mixed-grass prairie Replacement 67% 15 8 25
Mixed 33% 30 15 35
Northern tallgrass prairie Replacement 90% 6.5 1 25
Mixed 9% 63    
Surface or low 2% 303    
Northern Plains Woodland
Great Plains floodplain Replacement 100% 500    
Northern Great Plains wooded draws and ravines Replacement 38% 45 30 100
Mixed 18% 94    
Surface or low 43% 40 10  
Oak woodland Replacement 2% 450    
Surface or low 98% 7.5    
*Fire Severities—
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [1,27].

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