Donovan, Victoria M., Wonkka, Carissa L., Twidwell, Dirac

Geophysical Research Letters

Published date June 16, 2017

Surging wildfire activity in a grassland biome

  • States that rapid changes in wildfire patterns are documented globally, increasing pressure to identify regions that may experience increases in wildfire in future decades
  • States that temperate grassland and savanna biomes were some of the most frequently burned regions on Earth; however, large wildfires have been largely absent from the Great Plains of North America over the last century
  • Conducts an in-depth analysis of changes in large wildfire (>400 hectares) regime characteristics over a 30 year period across the Great Plains
  • For the entire biome:
    • The average number of large wildfires increased from 33.4 ± 5.6 per year from 1985 to 1994 to 116.8 ± 28.8 wildfires per year from 2005 to 2014
    • Total area burned by large wildfires increased 400%
    • Over half the ecoregions had greater than a 70% probability of a large wildfire occurring in the last decade
    • Seasonality of large wildfires remained relatively similar