Implications of Climate Variability on Large Fires Across Multiple Spatiotemporal Scales in Sagebrush Steppe  

Abstract Category: Science
Course / Degree: MSc
Institution / University: University of Idaho, United States
Published in: 2008

Thesis Abstract / Summary:

The occurrence of large fires in the western United States raises questions about the effect of climate change on fire regimes in the past and future. Sagebrush steppe has long been exposed to agriculture, excessive grazing, and invasive species. This endangered ecosystem is facing a new threat of increasingly large wildfires and climate change. The objectives of this study were to reconstruct the fire history for sagebrush steppe ecosystems across three spatial scales of sagebrush-dominated steppe: a. Idaho National Laboratory, b. Snake River Plain, and c. portions of the Northern Basin and Range to include the Snake River Plain. This study used geographic information systems (GIS) to correlate size and occurrence of fires over 5,000 ha with topography, vegetation, and climatic variables across multiple spatial and temporal scales. The impact of climate variability and extreme climatic events on fire occurrence and size can vary depending on the spatial and temporal scales over which information is collected and analyzed. Large fires increased between 1960 – 2003 both in size and number, and increasingly formed a greater proportion of all wildfires over the time period studied. At the broadest spatial scale, the size of large fires was positively correlated with average annual maximum temperature during the year of the fire event. Fire occurrence and average yearly precipitation one year previous to the large fire event were also correlates. There was also some correlation with topographical aspect. From 1960 to 2003 the area was subject to an increase in maximum temperature and a decrease in precipitation. Increases in large fire occurrence and size are attributed to increase in air temperature and exotic grasses. My results and the projected trend toward warmer, drier growing seasons and summers suggest that sagebrush steppe systems are likely to continue to experience an increase in large fires in the future.

Thesis Keywords/Search Tags:
Fire, fire regimes, fire history, sagebrush-steppe, Artemesia tridentata, cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum, Great Basin, Snake River Plain

This Thesis Abstract may be cited as follows:
Kuchy, A.L. 2008. Implications of Climate Variability on Large Fires Across Spatiotemporal Scales in Sagebrush Steppe. MSc. Thesis. University of Idaho

Submission Details: Thesis Abstract submitted by Andréa L. Kuchy from United States on 15-Dec-2008 12:00.
Abstract has been viewed 2275 times (since 7 Mar 2010).

Andréa L. Kuchy Contact Details: Email: akuchy@vandals.uidaho.edu

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