Post-fire Seeding Effects on Federal Shrublands

Vegetation and fuels data collected in 2010 and 2011 from historical emergency stabilization & rehabilitation seedings (1990 – 2003) on BLM lands within the Great Basin

More information about research supported by these data

The primary manuscript addressing the main vegetation hypotheses and objectives has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Knutson, K. C., Pyke, D. A., Wirth, T. A., Arkle, R. S., Pilliod, D. S., Brooks, M. L., Chambers, J. C., Grace, J. B. (2014), Long-term effects of seeding after wildfire on vegetation in Great Basin shrubland ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12309
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An additional paper examining the suitability of our plots for Greater sage-grouse habitat has been published in the journal Ecosphere.

Robert S. Arkle, David S. Pilliod, Steven E. Hanser, Matthew L. Brooks, Jeanne C. Chambers, James B. Grace, Kevin C. Knutson, David A. Pyke, Justin L. Welty, and Troy A. Wirth 2014. Quantifying restoration effectiveness using multi-scale habitat models: implications for sage-grouse in the Great Basin. Ecosphere 5:art31.
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A manuscript describing the fuel characteristics of ES&R treatments is also in the early phase of preparation, and we also plan develop a structural equation model of major factors influencing ES&R seeding outcomes.

A poster presentation was delivered on August 6, 2012 at the 97th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland, OR. The abstract for this presentation can be found at:
Effects of post-fire seedings on plant cover and annual grass invasion in the Great Basin: A chronosequence approach

Project Background & Objectives

Approximately one million hectares currently burn each year within the Great Basin region of the western USA. A large proportion of these burned areas are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which implements an emergency stabilization and rehabilitation (ES&R) program to mitigate potential negative effects of wildfire in Great Basin shrublands. ES&R treatments used often include aerial or drill seeding with native and non-native perennial grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Common ES&R treatment objectives are to decrease soil erosion, increase desirable perennial plant cover (typically deep-rooted perennial grasses and shrubs), improve habitat for wildlife, and reduce abundance of invasive plants, particularly non-native annuals.

Although BLM currently monitors ES&R projects for three years after seeding, very little information is available to land managers evaluating the effectiveness of ES&R seeding over longer time periods. To meet this information need, we revisited and sampled BLM post-fire aerial and drill seeding projects implemented from 1990 to 2003 using a study approach similar to a chronosequence. Our approach provided data on both short- and long-term vegetation recovery of treated sites and allowed an assessment of treatment responses over a range of ages, climate patterns, and plant associations.

Our primary goals were to determine post-fire seeding effects on cover and density of seeded perennial life-forms, cover of undesirable non-native life-forms (primarily annual bromes and forbs), and cover of bare ground that would inform future adaptive management decisions regarding the ES&R program. We also investigated the role of environmental factors such as annual precipitation, elevation, and topography on seeding outcomes across our study area to better identify locations where future ES&R projects might meet program objectives. Other study goals included determining the effects of ES&R seedings on long-term fuel structure patterns and also the long-term effects of ES&R seedings on wildlife habitat.

Project Location & Current Status

We established 826 sampling plots at 101 ES&R seeding projects throughout Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah in 2010 and 2011. Five field crews of 2-3 persons sampled vegetation and fuels data at these sites in 2011. Two field crews in 2010 also sampled a subset of projects to verify field methodology and assisted with ES&R project assessment and establishment. At each ES&R project sampled in the study, burn-seeded, burn-unseeded, and unburned plots were established to compare effects across these three treatment types. Primary vegetation sampling methods included plant cover, shrub density, and herbaceous biomass.

Contact the Authors:

Dr. David A. Pyke
USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

Dr. David S. Pilliod
USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

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