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Fine-scale variation of historical fire regimes in sagebrush-steppe and juniper woodland: An example from California, USA

Posted date: September 02, 2008
Publication Year: 
2008
Authors: Miller, Richard F.; Heyerdahl, Emily K.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 245-254.

Abstract

Coarse-scale estimates of fire intervals across the mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata spp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle) alliance range from decades to centuries. However, soil depth and texture can affect the abundance and continuity of fine fuels and vary at fine spatial scales, suggesting fire regimes may vary at similar scales. We explored variation in fire frequency across 4000 ha in four plant associations with differing soils in which mountain big sagebrush and western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis subsp. occidentalis Hook.) were diagnostic or a transitory component. We reconstructed fire frequency from fire-scarred ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa P. & C. Lawson) in one association. The other three associations lacked fire-scarred trees so we inferred fire frequency from establishment or death dates of western juniper and a model of the rate of post-fire succession we developed from current vegetation along a chronosequence of time-since-fire. Historical fire frequency varied at fine spatial scales in response to soil-driven variation in fuel abundance and continuity and spanned the range of frequencies currently debated. Fire intervals ranged from decades in areas of deep, productive soils where fine fuels were likely abundant and continuous, to centuries in areas of shallow, coarse soils where fine fuel was likely limited.

Citation

Miller, Richard F.; Heyerdahl, Emily K. 2008. Fine-scale variation of historical fire regimes in sagebrush-steppe and juniper woodland: An example from California, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 245-254.