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Tuesday, February 7 • 11:00am - 11:20am
Symposia Session - S6: Impact of Prescribed and Wild Fires on the Great Plains. Laws Drive Biome-level Transformation of Grassland to Eastern Redcedar Forest

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

ABSTRACT: Eastern redcedar is invading open grasslands, where it has previously been rare, across vast portions of the Great Plains. This biome-level transformation has precipitated declines in many grassland-obligate species across multiple trophic levels. Many grassland avian species are not found in areas with greater than 10% redcedar cover and grassland transition to forest is viewed as one of the leading causes for the decline of prairie grouse species. This transformation has been linked to a reduction in the intensity and spatial extent of fires following European settlement of the Great Plains. However, the extent of cedar invasion varies across the region. We hypothesize that this variability is largely driven by differences in societal norms and policies regarding fire use, which determine conditions under which fire management can occur and the resulting range in fire intensities and scales of application available for meeting management goals. We developed a simulation model to explore the influence of laws and policies on Eastern redcedar invasion in the Great Plains. This modeling exercise identified laws and policies that influence fire management as major drivers of the transition from grassland to redcedar forest. For instance: 1) stringent liability standards decrease the number of managers who are willing to burn, thereby decreasing the spatial extent of fire in an area and allowing greater spread of redcedar into uninvaded areas 2) burning restrictions during periods of drought limit opportunities to burn under conditions where high fire intensities and attendant reductions in cover of mature redcedar can be acheived. Understanding the effects of laws and policies on redcedar invasion is necessary to assess trade-offs associated with legislatively limiting the scale and intensity of fire available to mangers and to avoid unintended consequences when developing legislation aimed at protecting grassland species.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 11:00am - 11:20am CST
Arbor I/II

Attendees (7)