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Tuesday, February 7 • 10:20am - 10:40am
Symposia Session - S6: Impact of Prescribed and Wild Fires on the Great Plains. Changing Wildfire Trajectories and Future Implications for Great Plains Ecosystems

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AUTHORS: Victoria Donovan, Carissa Wonkka, Dirac Twidwell - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT: Large wildfires are increasing across the globe, dramatically altering the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems. Understanding changes in the trajectory of wildfire regimes is thus crucial for managing ecological systems in the future. Evidence suggests that wildfires are increasing in portions of central North America, an area where large wildfires have been largely absent or rare over the last century. We assessed changes in large wildfire (>400 ha) regimes in the Great Plains of the United States using 30-years of large wildfire monitoring data. The number and size of large wildfires surged in the Great Plains in the last decade. For the entire biome, an average of only 33.4
+ 5.6 large wildfires occurred each year from 1985-1994, whereas mean annual large wildfire occurrence increased to 116.8
+ 5.5 wildfires per year from 2005-2014. Changes in the number of wildfires occurred the most in southern and western-central ecoregions. Total acres burned by large wildfires increased approximately 400% over the last three decades, with the most rapid increases occurring along the entire western edge of the Great Plains biome. The probability of wildfire occurrence and seasonal shifts in wildfires also show novel departures in the most recent decade, but those changes are manifesting most rapidly in the southeastern and northeastern ecoregions, respectively. In this paper, we discuss how the changing trajectory of wildfire in the Great Plains biome needs to be considered as part of future wildlife conservation planning.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 10:20am - 10:40am CST
Arbor I/II