USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Fire Science in the Sierra Nevada

Fire burning through the forest.

Fire is both a critical natural ecosystem process, and at times a hazard to human life, infrastructure, and resource values in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Accordingly, the management of fire is at the forefront of most Federal land management plans in the region. To some degree land managers can control when, where, and how fire spreads across the landscape through fuels management, fire suppression, wildland fire use, and prescribed fire. There are also fire management programs designed to influence the trajectory of post fire soils, vegetation, and wildlife populations and communities. All of these programs and activities are meant to accomplish the goals and objectives of land management plans. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, particularly within Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, has been one of the most active regions nationwide for fire management during the past 30 year. There is a significant legacy of data, land management treatments, and fire histories that makes the Sierra Nevada Mountains an ideal study region. The role of USGS in the research project "Sierra Nevada Fire Science" is to build upon this legacy of information and conduct new research to better understand the past, present, and potential future ecological roles of fire at local to landscape scales. This information can then be used by land managers to develop informed goals and objectives in their planning documents, and implement appropriate actions (or inactions) that will most effectively help achieve them.

Project Details

Specific activities planned for FY09-2010 include: 1) archiving and creating metadata for all the past YFS datasets; 2) identifying research questions that can be addressed by the YFS data and initiate analyses; 3) working with the new Yosemite fire ecologist to extract information from their FMH database; 4) developing a research plan to evaluate the influence of fire coupled with climate change in affecting fuels, fire behavior, and fire effects in shifting Sierra Nevada landscapes; and 5) further developing the landscape fuel succession models for the Sierra Nevada.

USGS Contact For This Project
Matthew Brooks
(559) 240-7622
Yosemite Field Station
40298 Junction Dr., Suite A
Oakhurst, CA 93644
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