5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 8:30 AM
Understory fuel load and community changes associated with varying pinyon-juniper dominance and elevation
Alicia L. Reiner, University of Nevada, Reno, NV; and R. J. Tausch, T. Brown, and R. Walker
Since settlement of the Great Basin by European Americans about 140 years ago, pinyon (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) have increased in area and density, encroaching into adjacent sagebrush communities. Increases in pinyon and juniper density and biomass are resulting in decline of the understory plant community as well as more intense fire behavior as fuel loads increase. The purpose of this study is to quantify understory plant community and fuel load changes associated with varying pinyon-juniper dominance and elevation. The weight of understory plant species by timelag fuel size classes as well as total understory biomass and biomass by lifeform (grass, forb and shrub) were estimated in areas of varying pinyon-juniper dominance and elevation in central Nevada. Regression equations were formed from a subset of measured and weighed plants in order to calculate fuel loadings and biomass from plant size measurements. Graphical analysis and split-sample cross-validations were done to determine those regression equations with the best predictive capabilities. Understory fuel loadings and biomass are being analyzed using ANOVA to determine differences in fuel loadings and understory characteristics between tree density and elevation treatments. Results from this study will be used as baseline data for research on understory recovery at various levels of pinyon-juniper dominance and elevation after a prescribed burn.

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