In the image above of the Constantia Fire in Long Valley, California, the brown burned patch was likely carried by cheatgrass (the dense yellow cover in the lower elevation areas) up into Pinon-Juniper forest at higher elevations. New research by UMass Amherst biogeographer Bethany Bradley (Environmental Conservation), fire expert Jennifer Balch (Penn State) and colleagues suggests that cheatgrass, an invasive species brought west by settlers in the 1800s, is one cause for the larger, hotter and more frequent range fires in the western US. This is the first study to document the role of cheatgrass-driven fires at a regional scale. Learn more.
Photo credit: Nolan Preece