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Project ID: 01B-3-3-24

Year: 2002

Date Started: 04/02/2002

Date Completed: 05/07/2007

Title: Development of a Methodology for Building a Long-Term Fire History in Great Basin Valley Landscapes

Project Proposal Abstract: The objective of the proposed project is to develop a methodology for reconstructing the long-term history of fire frequency and effects on the sage-grass landscapes in the Great Basin, a landscape type for which few studies are available but which burn on a regular basis. Currently most fire histories are constructed from treed areas where tree-rings and fife scars provide the pertinent data. However, there are no tree-ring studies in relevant areas of the Great Basin and treeless sage-grass vegetation dominates many Great Basin valleys, where invasion of fire- adapted cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is rapidly creating conditions of frequent wildland fire. The costs of these fires include not only the immediate financial outlay of people and equipment required to control them and associated risk to human life, but they occur in areas that impact the rural ranching economy and that provided critical habitat for native animals. Valleys that now burn frequently were once covered with sagebrush (Artemesia sp.) and native grasses that supported species of animals that no longer occur there, and they provided corridors through which animals could pass to maintain disjunct populations in high elevation habitat patches. Some of those animals, such as bison (Bison bison), native sheep (Ovis canadensis), rabbits (Sylvilagus nuttalli), and marmots (Marmotaflaviventris), were of high economic value to prehistoric people, much as cattle are today. In adjacent areas of the arid west prehistoric people routinely burned sage and other brush to encourage the growth of native grasses that supported these important food resources. However, there is no documented use of fire as a landscape management tool in the Great Basin, largely due to the theoretical paradigm under which the first ethnographic records were collected. By the time the Great Basin landscapes were described by trappers and explorers there were no extensive grasslands, the bison were gone, and the sheep were denizens of high elevations. Reconstruction of fire history in the sage-grass landscapes will contribute to understanding the complex interaction between fire used by people, native and introduced plants, and changes in the native animal populations in a poorly understood habitat type. We will develop the methodology for data collection and analysis from valley wetlands and archaeological sites that can be integrated with tree-ring data from adjacent uplands to construct fire histories that extend spatially beyond the treed areas of the Great Basin and temporally beyond the available written records of fires, allowing a better assessment of the impact of invasive grasses on fire frequency and the effects of human use of fire to manage the Great Basin valley landscapes.

Principal Investigator: Pat Barker

Agency/Organization: BLM-Bureau of Land Management

Branch or Dept: Nevada State Office

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Franco Biondi

University of Nevada-Reno

Department of Geography

Co-Principal Investigator

Sandra Gregory

BLM-Bureau of Land Management

Nevada State Office

Co-Principal Investigator

Stephanie Livingston

Stephanie Livingston, Consultant

Co-Principal Investigator

Scott Mensing

University of Nevada-Reno

Department of Geography

Federal Cooperator

Pat Barker

BLM-Bureau of Land Management

Nevada State Office

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Great Basin

There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1001 Government Publication Long-Term Fire History in Great Basin Sagebrush Reconstructed from Macroscopic Charcoal in Spring Sediments, Newark Valley, Nevada
view or print   921 Invited Paper/Presentation Development of a Methodology for Building Fire History in Great Basin Shrub-Grass Landscapes

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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