Historic Fire Regimes Along an Elevational Gradient on the West Slope -- Abstract

Smoke rises from a controlled bun in a sequoia grove.
Smoke rises from a controlled burn in a sequoia grove.

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Historic Fire Regimes Along an Elevational Gradient on the West Slope of the Sierra Nevada, California. A.C. Caprio and T.W. Swetnam. 1995. Proceedings: Symp. On Fire in Wilderness and Park Management. 1993 March 30-April 1; Missoula, MT, USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-320.

Fire history was investigated along an elevational gradient in montane forests on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada . Fire records from all sites extended back to A.D. 1700 and indicted that fire frequency was inversely related to elevation; frequencies were relatively low in high elevation forest stands and high in low elevation stands. The highest frequencies were found in the late 1700's followed by moderate decline until about 1860 when frequency dropped rapidly until there was nearly a complete cessation of fires by the start of the 20th century. Based on intea-annual positions of fire scars within the tree rings, fires in the past must have almost always been late season burns. Coherent fire dates among sites for many fire dates suggested that fires were large and frequently burned across the elevational gradient. The higher fire frequencies at lower elevations suggested that fire spread at these elevations was important in the past.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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