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Project ID: 15-1-03-35

Year: 2015

Date Started: 08/01/2015

Ending Date:  07/31/2019

Title: Assessing the implications of changing fuels and fire regimes on management and resiliency in the So

Project Proposal Abstract: The Sonoran Desert is the most biodiverse desert in North America, home to numerous threatened and endangered species. The sensitive, native vegetation communities of the Sonoran Desert are ill-equipped to accommodate the anticipated effects of global climate change. A changing climate and associated, widespread invasions of non-native annual grasses and forbs have introduced regular wildfire to this system, which is not fire-adapted. Emergence of a novel fire regime in the Sonoran Desert, in the form of larger and more frequent fires, can diminish the long-term recovery potential of native plant communities with limited inherent resilience. To effectively create resiliency to climate and land cover changes, vegetation (e.g., fuels) management and restoration strategies in the Sonoran Desert must seek to reduce the impacts of non-native invasion, disturbance, and fires on native ecosystems. The proposed work will comprehensively address JFSP FON Task Statement 3: Implications of Changing Fuels and Fire Regimes. We will predict probable climate-driven shifts in vegetation and fuels across the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, projecting 20 and 40 years into the future. Equipped with our direct knowledge of the sites that burned in the high fire year of 2005, we will relate changes in vegetation to field-measured fuels characteristics (such as fine fuels quantity, moisture retention, and fuels continuity). We will use these results to guide an interdisciplinary process for assessing how predicted fire regime shifts will influence management and what parts of the study area are likely to be more or less resilient to fire events. Our proposed research integrates contemporary vegetation distribution models, based on current and future climate predictions, empirical fuels measurements, the decision-making thresholds of managers, and landscape-scale assessment, and combines these to generate management-relevant predictions of likely fire regime change. Specific strengths and benefits of the proposed project include: 1) a novel interdisciplinary approach threaded throughout the research and linking results directly to management applications; 2) a focus on the Sonoran Desert, which harbors high biodiversity yet faces dramatic impacts from an emergent and changing fire regime  and is relatively neglected by fire science; 3) applicability of findings to arid systems elsewhere in the West (e.g., Californias Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Chihuahuan Desert), where fire regimes also are emerging or changing rapidly; 4) integration of new and demonstrated fire modeling approaches; and 5) leveraging of a powerful Sonoran Desert dataset, focused on invasive species and fire, that was generated via an ongoing Department of Defense-funded project and two extensive JFSP-funded projects.

Principal Investigator: Clare E. Aslan

Agency/Organization: Northern Arizona University

Branch or Dept: School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Wilma G. Ennenga

Northern Arizona University

Office of Grant & Contract Service

Budget Contact

Cindy L. Judge

Northern Arizona University

Office of Grant & Contract Service

Co-Principal Investigator

Brett G. Dickson

Northern Arizona University

School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability

Co-Principal Investigator

Leah H. Samberg

University of Montana

College of Forestry & Conservation

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network









Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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