You are here: Reno Great Basin Ecology Laboratory / Research by Topic / Managing Piñon, Juniper and Sagebrush Ecosystems
Managing Piñon, Juniper and Sagebrush Ecosystems

Managing Piñon, Juniper Woodlands and Sagebrush Ecosystems Exhibiting Tree Expansion

Big Creek 1901
Big Creek 1901

Piņon and juniper trees are native species that occur naturally in woodland vegetation types, but that also are expanding into mid- to upper-elevation sagebrush vegetation types throughout much of their range. Expansion of the tree species into sagebrush types typically results in an increase in tree biomass and, thus, woody fuel loads, and a decrease in the understory species associated with the sagebrush type. Higher fuel loads increase the risk of larger and more severe fires, and higher severity fires further deplete the understory species. The net effect of tree expansion on sagebrush ecosystems often is a decrease in ecological resistance to invasive species and in ecological resilience or the capacity to recover after fire. Managers throughout the region are using fire and fire surrogate treatments in an attempt to decrease fuel loads and the risk of catastrophic fire and to increase the ecological resistance and resilience of sagebrush ecosystems. The Great Basin Ecology Lab is studying (1) the factors influencing the rate and magnitude of tree expansion, (2) the effects of tree expansion on sagebrush ecosystems, and (3) the response of sagebrush ecosystems to fire and fire surrogate treatments aimed at removing the tree species. Results are being used to develop decision support tools for managing piņon and juniper woodlands and sagebrush ecosystems exhibiting tree expansion.

Big Creek 2004
Big Creek 2004

Projects

Project image
A Demonstration Area on Ecosystem Response to Watershed-Scale Burns in Great Basin Piñon-Juniper Woodlands
This Joint Fire Sciences Program project established a demonstration watershed for illustrating the feasibility and ecological effects of prescribed fire on piñon and juniper dominated ecosystems to managers, researchers, and the public in Underdown Canyon, Shoshone Range, central Nevada.More...

Project image
Changing Fire Regimes and Increased Fuel Loads: Effects on Sagebrush Steppe and Piñon-Juniper Ecosystems
This integrated research project addressed the spatial and temporal changes that occurred in sagebrush ecosystems and piñon and juniper woodlands after settlement of the region.More...

Project image
Decision Support Tools for Conducting Fire and Fuels Management Projects in Piñon-Juniper Woodlands
In mountainous areas of the Great Basin, piñon and juniper expansion is occurring in a variety sagebrush ecological types that differ significantly in environmental characteristics and in species composition and abundance.More...

Project image
Long-Term Vegetation Response to Chaining and Prescribed Fire in Eastern Nevada Piñon-Juniper Woodlands
In 1970-1971, this study sampled four chained sites and adjacent controls in eastern Nevada that were treated between 1958 and 1969. In 2008, the same sampling protocol was replicated to assess the long-term effects and efficacy of the treatments. In addition, five prescribed fires from the same area were sampled that were first treated and studied in 1975-1976.More...

Project image
Sagebrush Steppe Treatment and Evaluation Project
The Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project is a comprehensive, integrated long-term study evaluating the ecological effects of fire and fire surrogate treatments designed to reduce fuel and to restore sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities of the Great Basin and surrounding areas.More...

Representative Publications