Cheatgrass increases fire activity across the arid western U.S.

 Between sagebrush, a continuous cover of cheatgrass fuels an intense fire in the Great Basin.A study published in Global Change Biology finds an invasive grass species may be one reason fires are bigger and more frequent in certain regions of the western United States. Results demonstrate that cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion has substantially altered the regional fire regime. Although this result has been suspected by managers for decades, this study is the first to document recent cheatgrass-driven fire regimes at a regional scale.

Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980–2009)
Jennifer K. Balch, Bethany A. Bradley, Carla M. D’Antonio, and José Gómez-Dans
Global Change Biology, December 2012 (online)

UCSB press release
“The Invasive Grass-Fire Cycle in the U.S. Great Basin”, Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (related educational resource)

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Posted on December 5, 2012