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Research Project Report

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Fire is now recognized as a major process in Rocky Mountain coniferous forests, with many ecosystem patterns and processes being affected as much by fire as by climate and soil. For this reason there is a move toward reinstating fire as a natural process within our National Parks and Wilderness Areas, a move which is proceeding cautiously, however, because there is still much that we do not know about fire's natural role in ecosystems. In Yellowstone National Park, where a fire management plan is now in effect, an important question is: What is the natural frequency and size of wildfires in different Park ecosystems? An understanding of natural fire frequency and size is important not only in formulating and evaluating fire management plans, but also in evaluating long-term effects of fire on wildlife habitat, productivity, nutrient cycling, and other ecosystem processes.