Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Scientists demo fire effects research

Jackie Ott and Brian Dickerson dump bags of grass onto a burn table.
Research ecologist Jackie Ott and wildlife biologist Brian Dickerson place fuel (grasses) onto the burn table. Forest Service photo by Scott Jacobson.

COLORADO—On Nov. 1, Rocky Mountain Research Station research ecologist and project lead Jackie Ott and her team, including researchers from the station, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming, USDA Agricultural Research Service and U.S. Geological Survey showcased their fire effects research during a media day at the Great Plains Dispatch Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. Three local media outlets viewed demonstrations of controlled fire table experiments as well as presentations on several field-based experiments taking place on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, Thunder Basin National Grassland and private lands. 

Grazing, fire and climate are the primary drivers that have historically shaped and continue to shape our grasslands. Fire effects on the regeneration potential of the native herbaceous plant community in northern mixed-grass prairie and eastern sagebrush steppe, while poorly understood, are critical for appropriate management and the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function. Research scientists and land managers from the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Black Hills National Forest and the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands have developed a project to study grassland and shrubland response to and recovery from fire. The project focuses on how fire affects the regeneration and abundance of desirable forbs and grasses as well as plants introduced by humans, such as annual brome.

The project is a great example of how managers and scientists co-produce knowledge to improve the condition of our nation’s grasslands. It was funded by the Joint Fire Sciences Program and Rocky Mountain Research Station.