EVALUATING TRADE-OFFS BETWEEN RESTORATION OF BURNED LANDSCAPES AND TARGETED SUPPRESSION OF WILDFIRES IN SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEMS
|Ian A Dwight; U.S. Geological Survey - WERC; email@example.com; Cali L. Roth, Peter S. Coates, Mark A. Ricca, Lea A. Condon
In sagebrush ecosystems, wildfire is increasing in frequency and extent with the expansion of invasive grasses and adversely affecting greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations. Although post-fire restoration of sagebrush is important and often necessary for conservation of sensitive species, it is often expensive with variable levels of success. Hence, evaluating trade-offs between retroactive (restoration) versus proactive (prevention/suppression) management strategies can be highly informative to sage-grouse conservation. We simulated management scenarios of post-fire sagebrush recovery with active seeding and outplanting and compared spatially explicit outputs with scenarios of simulated wildfire reduction using wildfire history data from 1984 to 2015. We found that 75% suppression of randomly selected wildfires resulted in the lowest cumulative burned area and negated adverse impacts to sage-grouse populations. Furthermore, targeted suppression near leks and sage-grouse conservation areas effectively reduced the number of wildfires requiring operational intervention by an average of 65.37% and 78.82%, respectively. Therefore, actively reducing wildfire size and frequency through prevention and suppression within sagebrush ecosystems is likely far more effective per unit effort than relying on post-fire restoration activities alone while proactively conserving sage-grouse habitat. These findings are preliminary, provided for timely science communication, and subject to change.