Riparian ecosystems are among the most productive and diverse ecosystems in desert biomes. In the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts of the United States and Mexico, riparian ecosystems support regional biodiversity and provide many ecosystem services to human communities. Due to the dynamic nature of these ecosystems and their abundance of resources, riparian areas have been modified in various ways and to a large extent through human endeavor to manage water and accommodate various land uses, particularly in lowland floodplains and stream channels. Modifications often interfere with multiple and complex ecological processes, resulting in the loss of native riparian vegetation and increasing vulnerability to invasive species, climate change, and fire. A small but growing body of literature suggests fire frequency and fire severity are increasing in riparian ecosystems where hydrological processes that support native vegetation have been disrupted and exotic species make up a significant portion of the vegetation community. Although the ecological role of fire has been well-studied in many montane forest and grassland systems, there is comparatively little information available about fire in lowland riparian ecosystems. We systematically reviewed literature to investigate the effects of wildfires and prescribed fires occurring within riparian zones. In this report, we 1) assess and summarize the state of the knowledge of the direct effects of fire on abiotic processes and vegetation in lowland riparian ecosystems, fire as a restoration tool, and post-fire rehabilitation, 2) identify gaps in available information, and 3) synthesize the results of the literature review and discuss implications for management, restoration, and research.
Click on title to download individual files attached to this item.
Potential Metadata Source