FACTORS INFLUENCING EFFECTIVENESS OF FUEL BREAKS FOR CONTAINING RANGELAND WILDFIRES WITHIN THE GREAT BASIN.
Cali Roth; U.S,. Geological Survey; 800 Business Park Dr Suite D, Dixon, CA, 95620; (330) 592-9319; croth@usgs.gov; Peter Coates, Mark Ricca, Michele Crist, Julie Heinrichs, Douglas Shinneman
Iconic sagebrush ecosystems of the American West are threatened by wildfires that kill sagebrush and facilitate invasion by flammable annual grasses. The result is a non-analog positive feedback loop that has greatly increased wildfire frequency, severity, and extent. Finding methods to effectively thwart this novel Anthropocene-disturbance regime lie at the forefront of national conservation efforts. Networks of fuel breaks are a management tool that may minimize catastrophic losses of sagebrush to fire by reducing hazardous fuel loads, disrupting fuel continuity, and facilitating critical on-the-ground staging of initial attack and suppression operations. However, little is known about the broad-scale effectiveness of fuel breaks at containing wildfires in sagebrush ecosystems, or the tradeoffs between fire suppression and sagebrush disturbance produced by fuel break installation and maintenance. We leveraged extensive multi-agency databases of fuel breaks coupled with annual wildfire severity and extent maps in a retrospective analysis to identify suites environmental variables and fuel-break design characteristics associated with probabilities of halting the spread and reducing the severity of wildfires across the Great Basin. Results can also help managers identify other areas for targeted fuel break installations. Findings are preliminary and provided for timely best science.
Wildfire and Wildlife