Trial by fire: restoration of Middle Rio Grande upland ecosystems
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): S. R. Loftin
Coordinator(s): D. M. Finch; J. C. Whitney; J. F. Kelly; S. R. Loftin
Publication Year: 1999

Cataloging Information

  • biomass
  • Bouteloua gracilis
  • community ecology
  • coniferous forests
  • deserts
  • distribution
  • disturbance
  • droughts
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • elevation
  • erosion
  • European settlement
  • fertilization
  • fire danger rating
  • fire exclusion
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire suppression
  • fuel accumulation
  • grasslands
  • grazing
  • Gutierrezia sarothrae
  • habitat types
  • herbaceous vegetation
  • Hilaria jamesii
  • Juniperus monosperma
  • livestock
  • New Mexico
  • Oryzopsis hymenoides
  • pine forests
  • Pinus edulis
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • plant communities
  • plant growth
  • range management
  • runoff
  • scrub
  • seed germination
  • shrublands
  • site treatments
  • soil erosion
  • stand characteristics
  • Stipa comata
  • understory vegetation
  • water
  • woody plants
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 6, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 37413
Tall Timbers Record Number: 11878
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: A13.151/5:RMRS-P-7
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


The majority of upland ecosystems (desert scrub, grasland, 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.

Loftin, S. R. 1999. Trial by fire: restoration of Middle Rio Grande upland ecosystems, in DM Finch, JC Whitney, JF Kelly, and SR Loftin eds., Rio Grande ecosystems: linking land, water, and people: toward a sustainable future for The Middle Rio Basin: Proceedings, June 2-5, 1998: Albuquerque, N.M. Ogden, UT, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Proceedings RMRS-P-7, p. 119-122.