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Title: Trial by fire: Restoration of Middle Rio Grande upland ecosystems

Author: Loftin, Samuel R.;

Date: 1999

Source: In: Finch, Deborah M.; Whitney, Jeffrey C.; Kelly, Jeffrey, F.; Loftin, Samuel R. Rio Grande ecosystems: linking land, water, and people: Toward a sustainable future for the Middle Rio Grande Basin. 1998 June 2-5; Albuquerque, NM. Proc. RMRS-P-7. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 119-122.

Publication Series: Proceedings (P)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: The majority of upland ecosystems (desert scrub, grassland, pinyon-juniper, ponderosa pine and higher elevation conifer forests) in the Middle Rio Grande Basin were historically dependent on periodic fire to maintain their composition, productivity, and distribution. The cultural practices of European man have altered the function, structure, and composition of virtually all Middle Rio Grande Basin ecosystems. Centuries of widespread livestock grazing has altered natural fire frequencies and intensities in upland habitat types. Fire suppression has lead to an increase in woody plant abundance on many upland sites, from grassland to ponderosa pine forests. The negative consequences range from increased surface runoff and soil erosion in grasslands, shrublands and pinyon-juniper woodlands to increased potential for severe wildfire in ponderosa pine forests. The goal of restoration in these systems is to reintroduce fire. Unfortunately, due to varying levels of degradation, it may not be possible, or reasonable, to simply burn areas and expect them to recover their former attributes. Successful restoration requires some knowledge of the extent of degradation and the potential for recovery. I will discuss the process of identifying problems, determining land status, and defining realistic objectives. I will present three case studies as examples of ecosystems in different stages of degradation that required different restoration procedures for reintroduction of fire.

Keywords: Rio Grande Basin, conservation, watershed, endangered species, sensitive species, restoration

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Loftin, Samuel R. 1999. Trial by fire: Restoration of Middle Rio Grande upland ecosystems. In: Finch, Deborah M.; Whitney, Jeffrey C.; Kelly, Jeffrey, F.; Loftin, Samuel R. Rio Grande ecosystems: linking land, water, and people: Toward a sustainable future for the Middle Rio Grande Basin. 1998 June 2-5; Albuquerque, NM. Proc. RMRS-P-7. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 119-122.

 


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