Fuels, fire severity, and invasive plants within the Cerro Grande Fire, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): Philip N. Omi; Erik J. Martinson; Mohammed A. Kalkhan; Geneva W. Chong; Molly E. Hunter; Thomas J. Stohlgren
Editor(s): R. Todd Engstrom; Krista E. M. Galley; William J. de Groot
Publication Year: 2004

Cataloging Information

  • catastrophic fires
  • Cerro Grande Fire
  • char
  • coniferous forests
  • cover
  • cover type
  • crown fires
  • distribution
  • elevation
  • fire case histories
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire severity
  • fuel loading
  • fuel management
  • fuel treatments
  • fuel types
  • GIS
  • Hordeum vulgare
  • invasive plants
  • invasive species
  • Juniperus
  • land management
  • landscape ecology
  • Lolium multiflorum
  • Los Alamos
  • Mexico
  • multiscale sampling
  • New Mexico
  • New Mexico
  • Pinus edulis
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • population density
  • prescribed fires (escaped)
  • rate of spread
  • sampling
  • slash
  • stand characteristics
  • statistical analysis
  • surface fires
  • thinning
  • topography
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 16, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 42455
Tall Timbers Record Number: 17531
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Tall Timbers shelf
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 severity of the 2000 fire season has increased public awareness of a widespread fuels problem in western U.S. forests. Federal land management agencies have responded with plans to greatly expand programs to mitigate hazardous fuel conditions. However, scant information exists on the efficacy of fuel treatments for mitigating wildfire severity. There is even less information regarding the influence of fuel treatments on second-order fire effects, such as invasive plants. A unique opportunity to address this research void has been provided by the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico.The Cerro Grande Fire burned over multiple dispersed stands that had previously been treated with a variety of methods, which included thinning with and without slash removal. Immediate post-fire sampling focused on fire severity comparisons in adjacent treated and untreated stands. Ratings of crown damage and ground char were lower in treated stands than in adjacent untreated stands (paired t-test, P < 0.05). We attribute these differences primarily to lower tree density in treated stands (P < 0.05). Reductions in fire severity were somewhat greater in thinned stands where slash was left than in thinned stands where slash was removed, though differences between these treatment types were not significant. This mixed result may be due to chance but could imply that, under extreme fire conditions, stand density may be a more important determinant of fire behavior and effects than surface fuel load.We greatly expanded our sampling effort in the summer of 2001 with a stratified random sampling design and multiscale plots to assess relationships among fuel treatments, stand conditions, fire severity, and invasive plants. Strata included aspect, elevation, cover type, fuel treatment type, and fire severity. Preliminary results indicate that percent relative invasive cover is higher in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) stands compared with other vegetation types sampled, though lower in fuel-treated areas. Relative invasive cover was also highest in severely burned areas and lowest in unburned stands. Further, the invasive plant species threat is lowest in stands that were both thinned and burned. Continuing analyses should improve our understanding of the potential ecological consequences of expanded fuel treatment activities. © 2004, Tall Timbers Research, Inc.

Omi, P. N., E. J. Martinson, M. A. Kalkhan, G. W. Chong, M. A. Hunter, and T. J. Stohlgren. 2004. Fuels, fire severity, and invasive plants within the Cerro Grande Fire, Los Alamos, New Mexico, in Engstrom, R. T., Galley, K. E. M., and de Groot, W. J., Proceedings 22nd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: Fire in temperate, boreal, and montane ecosystems. Kananaskis Village, Alberta, Canada. Tall Timbers Research, Inc.,Edmonton, Alberta, Canada [Imperial Printing Ltd.]. p. 141-148,