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Fuels Database for Intact and Invaded Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) Ecological Sites

October 4, 2018

The Fuels Guide and Database for Big Sagebrush Ecological Sites was developed as part of the Joint Fire Sciences Program project "Quantifying and predicting fuels and the effects of reduction treatments along successional and invasion gradients in sagebrush habitats" (Shinneman and others, 2015). The research was carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and Boise State University researchers, in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Army National Guard. Most of the research for the project focused on the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (hereafter the NCA) in southern Idaho. Sagebrush shrublands in the NCA, and throughout much of the Great Basin and Snake River Plain, are highly influenced by non-native plants that alter successional trajectories, suppress native species, and promote frequent wildfire. Fine-fuel loadings created by nonnative annual grasses and forbs can be highly variable through space and time, which can increase uncertainty when predicting fire risk and behavior. The overarching goal of the research project was to explore and develop different approaches to better quantify and predict these dynamic fuel loadings, as well as the effects of fuels manipulations in sagebrush habitats. The purpose of this database is to provide a tool that allows ready access to fuel loading data across a range of conditions, from relatively intact sagebrush-bunchgrass communities to degraded communities dominated by nonnative annual grasses and forbs. The Fuels Guide and Database (FGD) is a tool designed to assist land managers in estimating fuel loads within a specific stand of vegetation, under conditions ranging from sagebrush-dominated to nonnative, annual grass/forb-dominated communities. Users can query the database based on vegetation cover, vegetation height, and specific environmental variables (for example elevation, precipitation, temperature, soil surface texture, and ecological site) and return fuel loading data that match the query parameters. The FGD also allows users to view photos by point or plot and to individually exclude certain points or plots to help identify areas that best match the current conditions. Final results can be exported to Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or summarized in Microsoft Word reports that can be used to improve estimates of fuel loadings in the field. Fuels data were collected on the NCA, and therefore extrapolation of queried results should also only be applied to the NCA and similar regional environments. However, there is potential for additional cover data, vegetation height data, and fuels data to be added to the FGD. If you are interested in contributing data to the FGD please contact the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (fresc_outreach@usgs.gov). With additional input from other users, the Fuels Guide and Database has the potential to be a powerful tool throughout the sagebrush shrublands to assist land managers in quickly estimating fuel loadings. Shinneman, D.J., Pilliod, D.S., Arkle, R.S., and Glenn, N.F., 2015, Quantifying and predicting fuels and the effects of reduction treatments along successional and invasion gradients in sagebrush habitats: Joint Fire Science Program, p. 1-44. Please contact fresc_outreach@usgs.gov if you have difficulty downloading the data files. We will explore alternative arrangements to deliver the data.