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Fire Regimes and Forest Structure of Utah and Eastern Nevada:
A Multi-Scaled Histor
y from Tree Rings

Principle Investigators:
Emily Heyerdahl, Research Forester, Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Lab
Stan Kitchen, Research Botanist, Rocky Mountain Research Station Shrub Sciences Lab
Peter Brown, Director, Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research
 
Project Funded by:
 

       Results  |  Products  |   Personnel   |   Some Photographs

INTRODUCTION 
Before this project, Utah and eastern Nevada lacked dendrochronologically crossdated, site-specific fire and vegetation histories to provide information needed for scientifically based fire, land, and natural resource management in this region.  Historical data are increasingly viewed as essential to assess the need for active management of different vegetation types (for example, whether fuel treatments or wildland fire use is needed) and for justifying management actions within agencies and to the public.  Fire regimes (frequency, size, and severity) vary across space and through time in response to factors such as vegetation types, landscape physiography (e.g., elevation and topography), and longer-term climate change.  While 20th century records can help us understand the effects of recent fire exclusion on factors such as forest and fuel structure, we must look over longer time scales to better understand the influence of various forcings, such as climate changes and human land use, on fire occurrence and behavior. 
Our three-year study was funded by the Joint Fire Sciences Program, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fishlake National Forest, and the Bureau of Land Management. 

RESULTS
The project began
in the summer of 2002, with pilot funding provided by the Fishlake National Forest. We completed analyses of data from 16 sites that span ecological and climatic gradients present in the region along with three smaller units that were collected to address specific management issues (Figure, Table).  Within each of the larger sites, we systematically sampled tree-recruitment and fire-scar data within plots located on 500 m grids that span ranges of variation in topography and forest type.  At each plot we used n-tree density-adapted sampling to characterize forest age structure, composition, and tree density.  We sampled additional fire-scarred trees as well. We sampled a total of over 13,000 trees in over 400 plots located across a broad range of topography and 17 different biophysical settings ranging from sagebrush steppe to spruce-fir forests. 

PRODUCTS 
A final report
was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management in March, 2006 (warning: the file is 12 Megs in size).  This is the preliminary report that will be become a General Technical Report describing data from the entire project.  A final report was submitted to the Joint Fire Sciences Program in December, 2006.  In addition, a paper was published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire in early 2008 on fire/climate relationships, and other papers from the research will be posted here as they become available.

Site Code
Watershed and Mountain Range
Land Ownership
Plots
Trees
WCH
Peter Sinks, Wasatch Range
Wasatch-Cache NF
30
667
MUR
Uinta River/Pole Creek, Middle Uinta Mountains
Ashley NF
30
872
BRO
Dry Creek/Brownie Canyon, East Uinta Mountains
Ashley NF
30
890
WUN
Coop Creek, West Uinta Mountains
Wasatch-Cache NF
25
770
TVP Tavaputs Plateau BLM 3 150
BCL
Pine Springs Canyon, East Tavaputs Plateau
BLM
29
936
EPH
Ephraim Canyon, Wasatch Plateau
Manti-La Sal NF
29
886
BMC
Mill Creek/Burnt Mill Canyon, Snake Range
Great Basin NP
24
677
OWP
Old Woman Plateau, Wasatch Plateau
Fishlake NF
1
17
UFR
Mytoge Mountain, Sevier Plateau
Fishlake NF
15
466
WAH
Lawson Cove, Wah Wah Mountains
BLM
24
743
BOM
Fish Creek/Donkey Point, Boulder Mountain
Dixie NF
30
994
MON Monroe Mountain Fishlake NF 0 12
RAY
Ray Mesa, La Sal Mountains
BLM
5
127
INC
Indian Creek, Tushar Mountains
Fishlake NF
5
150
RBC
South Beaver Creek, Tushar Mountains
Fishlake NF
45
1344
HNR
Willow Creek, Henry Mountains
BLM
30
799
PSG
Meadow Creek Canyon, Paunsaugunt Plateau
Dixie NF
29
860
ABM
Pine Ridge/North Creek, Abajo Mountains
Manti-La Sal NF
30
857
 
Total Plots and Trees Sampled for the Project
 
411
12,055

PERSONNEL
Emily K. Heyerdahl
is a Research Forester at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, in Missoula, Montana.  Her research focuses on understanding climate forcing of historical fire regimes across western North America.  She has worked closely with forest managers in developing local fire and forest histories across a range of forest types in the Pacific Northwest, the southern-interior of British Columbia, the US northern Rockies, and the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico.  She is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University.  Email: eheryerdahl [at] fs [dot] fed [dot] us.

Stanley Kitchen
is a Research Botanist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Shrub Sciences Laboratory, in Provo, Utah.  He has a deep knowledge of the ecology of Utah's forest and woodland ecosystems.  Relevant research explores species and community level responses to various disturbance factors, including fire, in shrublands, woodlands, and dry forests of the eastern Great Basin.  He is also manager of the Desert Experimental Range and RMRS Station Coordinator for the Region 4 Research Natural Area Program.  Email: skitchen [at] fs [dot] fed [dot] us.

Peter M. Brown
is Director and President of Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research.  A major emphasis of his current research involves reconstructing fire history, fire climatology, and forest dynamics in forest of Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California.  He is an Affiliate Faculty member at Colorado State University, the University of Idaho, and the University of Arizona.  Email: pmb [at] rmtrr [dot] org.

Marc H. Weber
was a Biologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, and was the principle research support for the project.

SOME PHOTOGRAPHS


Emily Heyerdahl cutting a cross section from the catface of a stump.  Two parallel cuts are made across the area with the best scar record followed by plunge cuts to remove the partial cross section.
  

James Riser sawing partial cross sections from a snag.  Note that he is cutting two sections from opposite sides of the catface to obtain the most complete records from this tree.  Almost all of the cross sections we sampled were cut from dead trees.
 

Stan Kitchen at a bristlecone pine in the Escalante Mountains.



 

Brandon Collins and James Riser coring trees in the Mytoge Mountains near Fish Lake. Brandon is using the power increment borer setup and James is using a bent borer handle to sample the trees at about 10 cm up from their bases.

Stan (kneeling without a hat) and Emily (in purple) ooking for sites in the Mytoges, early summer 2003.
  

At the top of the Meadow Creek transect on Paunsaugunt Plateau, just around the corner from Bryce Canyon National Park.
 

The crew on Boulder Mountain, August 2004.

We came across the most amazing piece of field gear on the Abajos transect.  Quite the view of southern Utah for an nice afternoon break.
Page last updated: December 2010
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