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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Invasive Grass Behind Largest Wildfires
7 December 2012 11:10 am
An invasive grass species has sparked the interest of researchers studying the ecology of wildfires in the western United States. Cheatgrass, a long-stemmed plant native to Europe and southwestern Asia that was introduced by settlers in the 1800s, is now common in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, California, and Oregon. By comparing satellite images of cheatgrass to fire activity in the same area, scientists have now shown that the grass is involved in a disproportionate number of fires in these regions, and those fires were among the largest. Although cheatgrass makes up only 6% of the area's vegetation, it has been involved in 39 of the 50 largest fires in the last decade, and has burned twice as much as any other plant species, the team reports this week in Global Change Biology. The grass's ability to spread rapidly and to thrive in a wider variety of climates than other native plant species may contribute to its fire activity, researchers say. By understanding the life cycle of cheatgrass and its relationship to fire activity, climate, and other vegetation, they hope to predict, control, and prevent future wildfires—and effectively cheat the invasive plant out of its evolutionary advantage.
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