WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH GRANT PROPOSAL
Project ID: NV4182
Title: A Method to Determine the Effects of Fire, Restoration, and Invasive Species on Local and Regional Hydrology in the Great Basin by the Use of Environmental Tracers
Focus Categories: Hydrology, Methods
Keywords: fire, hydrology, geochemistry, isotopes, recharge
Start Date: 03/01/2001
End Date: 02/28/2002
Federal Funds: $21,533
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $43,756
Congressional District: Nevada 02
William Henry Albright
Research Associate, Desert Research Institute
James M. Thomas
Associate Professor, Desert Research Institute
A combination of periodic fire and the introduction of aggressive, non-native plant species has significantly altered the landscape of the Great Basin and may have affected significant changes in the soil moisture dynamics and hydrology of the region. Shallow-rooted annual grasses (cheatgrass) and deeper-rooted perennial grasses (crested wheatgrass) have replaced native plant communities dominated by deep-rooted perennial shrub and tree species. While the changes in plant community composition have received considerable attention, the accompanying alterations in hydrology in the Great Basin have not been thoroughly investigated. The demands placed on soil moisture and the timing of those demands by the introduced species may change (increase) the quantity of water available for recharge.
The clear delineation between burned and unburned areas at the edges of a fire offer excellent opportunity to evaluate the hydrologic effects of fire and plant succession. At fire lines, treatment (burned) and control (unburned) are in close proximity and can be clearly identified. We propose a field effort that will use environmental tracer methods to evaluate changes in hydrology resulting from fire and subsequent (re-)establishment of a plant community. Environmental tracer analysis of soil samples from soil coring activities at a burn site will provide a longer-term view of changes in soil moisture status, especially recharge, associated with burned areas.