Published in Fire Ecology, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 1, 2009, pages 67-78.
We investigated potential fire behavior and various societal benefits (air pollution removal, carbon sequestration, and carbon storage) provided by woodlands of pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus californica), shrublands of Great Basin sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), and recently burned annual grasslands near a wildland-urban interface (WUI) community in the high desert of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fire behavior simulations showed that shrublands had the greatest flame lengths under low wind conditions, and that pinyon-juniper woodlands had the greatest flame lengths when winds exceeded 25 km hr-1 and fire transitioned to the crowns. Air pollution removal capacity (PM10, O3, NO2, etc.) was significantly greater in pinyon-juniper stands, followed by shrublands and grasslands. Carbon storage (trees and burned tree snags only) did not significantly differ between pinyon-juniper and burned stands (~14 000 kg ha-1), but will change as burned snags decompose. Annual C sequestration rates in pinyon-juniper stands averaged 630 kg ha-1 yr-1. A landscape-level assessment showed that total compliance with residential defensible space regulations would result in minimal impact to air pollution removal capacity and carbon sequestration due to a currently low population density. Our methodology provides a practical mechanism to assess how potential management options might simultaneously impact both fire behavior and various environmental services provided by WUI vegetation.