Fire and Invasive Plants Special Feature Climate Change in Western US Deserts: Potential for Increased Wildfire and Invasive Annual Grasses
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CitationAbatzoglou, J. T., & Kolden, C. A. (2011). Climate change in western US deserts: potential for increased wildfire and invasive annual grasses. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 64(5), 471-478.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractAnthropogenic climate change is hypothesized to modify the spread of invasive annual grasses across the deserts of the western United States. The influence of climate change on future invasions depends on both climate suitability that defines a potential species range and the mechanisms that facilitate invasions and contractions. A suite of downscaled climate projections for the mid-21st century was used to examine changes in physically based mechanisms, including critical physiological temperature thresholds, the timing and availability of moisture, and the potential for large wildfires. Results suggest widespread changes in 1) the length of the freeze-free season that may favor cold-intolerant annual grasses, 2) changes in the frequency of wet winters that may alter the potential for establishment of invasive annual grasses, and 3) an earlier onset of fire season and a lengthening of the window during which conditions are conducive to fire ignition and growth furthering the fire-invasive feedback loop. We propose that a coupled approach combining bioclimatic envelope modeling with mechanistic modeling targeted to a given species can help land managers identify locations and species that pose the highest level of overall risk of conversion associated with the multiple stressors of climate change.