Maximum Fire Elevation in the Sierra Nevada Has Increased Over the Past Century: Research Brief

Maximum Fire Elevation in the Sierra Nevada Has Increased Over the Past Century: Research Brief

Using a geodatabase, researchers found that the maximum elevation extent of wildfires and the probability of wildfire occurrence above 3000 m have increased over the last century in the Sierra Nevada. This trend may accelerate vegetation shifts towards upper montane forest types in current subalpine systems. 

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Photo courtesy of Sasha Berleman 

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Pratt’s Arguments Against “Light Burning” in 1911: Research Brief

Mr. Pratt in 1911 published an argument against the “light burning” practices of those days, claiming these small fires were unnecessary and only caused an expensive loss of merchantable lumber over the years. Like other light-burning advocates, he had no research on his side.  
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"Light Burning" Debate in the early 1900's: Research Brief Series

In the early 20th century, there was an intense controversy over systematic “light burning, the practice of using cool fire as a management tool (similar to what we call prescribed fires today). These practices for fire control were highly debated before fire suppression policies overwhelmingly prevailed. Presented here is a series of research briefs that review publications from this controversy at this interesting look into history.

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Listening and Learning from Traditional Knowledge and Western Science: A Dialogue on Contemporary Challenges of Forest Health and Wildfire: Journal Article

Journal of Forestry Abstract: "Native Americans relied on fire to maintain a cultural landscape that sustained their lifeways for thousands of years. Within the past 100 years, however, policies of fire exclusion have disrupted ecological processes, elevating risk of wildfire, insects, and disease, affecting the health and availability of resources on which the tribes depend..."
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Prehistoric and historic fire in the Mojave Desert: Presentation PDF

Presented at the Mojave Desert Fire Science and Management Workshop. Barstow, CA 2014.

Conclusions from this presentation include statements about the prehistoric, historic, and current characteristics in the Mojave desert area. For example, high elevation and riparian vegetation types contain many species that evolved with fire, whereas lower elevation vegetation is characterized by species that evolved with very little fire.

Presenter: Matthew Brooks

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Fire In The Mojave Ecoregion: Past, Present, And A Little Bit Into The Future: Presentation PDF

This presentation discusses findings from two large scale integrated projects. The overarching goals of these projects were to use models and create tools about resource issues such as non-native species, postfire vegetation, ignition likelihood and fire severity.
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Prehistoric burning in northwestern California: Book Chapter

Excerpt: “In a landmark treatise on the ecology of Indian burning practices in California, Henry Lewis suggested an investigative approach involving “the collection and examination of the few and desultory ethnographic and historic statements about Indian burning to fit these into the findings and recommendations of contemporary ecological research.”
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The History of Oak Woodlands in California, Part II: The Native American and Historic Period: Journal Article

Abstract (excerpt): The open oak woodlands described in the accounts of Spanish explorers were in large part created by land use practices of the California Indians, particularly burning. Extensive ethnographic evidence documents widespread use of fire by indigenous people to manipulate plants utilized for food, basketry, tools, clothing, and other uses. Fire helped maintain oak woodlands and reduce expansion of conifers where these forest types overlapped. There is no clear evidence that the Spanish or subsequently the Mexican land uses had any significant impact on the distribution or abundance of oak woodlands. The introduction of livestock led to dramatic changes in understory species, which may have had some effect on oak regeneration, but this first wave of European settlement left California’s oak woodlands largely intact. During the American period, impacts on oak woodlands intensified. Oaks were cleared for fuel and charcoal, to open land for agriculture, and to improve rangeland. Fire suppression favored conifers where oaks and confers co-occur, leading to loss of oak woodlands.    
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Human relationships with chaparral since Euroamerican settlement: Presentation

This visual presentation goes through the historical relationships between Euroamericans and chaparral to provide background for our current relationship with this ecosystem.

Presenter: Char Miller, presented at the 2nd annual southern Chaparral Symposium 2015.

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A Different Perspective on Global Fire: USGS Research Brief

This article argues that fire is more akin to trophic processes such as herbivory, and that there has been a reluctance by ecologists to incorporate the process of fire into general theories of community development and assembly. 
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