SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata

INTRODUCTORY

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
 
Bluebunch wheatgrass community in Malheur County, Oregon. Photo courtesy of the PRBO Conservation Science Shrubsteppe Monitoring Program.
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Zlatnik, Elena. 1999. Pseudoroegneria spicata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

ABBREVIATION:
PSESPI

SYNONYMS:
Agropyron spicatum (Pursh) [116,137,155]
Agropyron inerme (Scribn. & Smith) Rydb. [210]
Elymus spicatus (Pursh) Gould [10,115]
Elytrigia spicata (Pursh) D.R. Dewey [92,149]

NRCS PLANT CODE:
PSSP6
PSSPI
PSSPS

COMMON NAMES:
bluebunch wheatgrass
beardless wheatgrass
bearded bluebunch wheatgrass
bearded wheatgrass

TAXONOMY:
The scientific name of bluebunch wheatgrass is Pseudoroegneria spicata (Pursh) A. Lve (Poaceae) [25,78,136,153,154,225]. There are two subspecies of bluebunch wheatgrass: Pseudoroegneria spicata ssp. spicata and Pseudoroegneria spicata ssp. inerme (beardless bluebunch wheatgrass) [121]. The only difference between the typical subspecies of bluebunch wheatgrass and beardless bluebunch wheatgrass is the presence or absence of divergent alms. The two subspecies are conterminous and hybridize [84].

Bluebunch wheatgrass hybridizes in nature with thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus), bottlebrush squirreltail (E. elymoides), [14] and quackgrass (Elymus repens) [208].

LIFE FORM:
Graminoid

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
No entry

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is distributed throughout the West. It occurs east of the Coast Ranges from Alaska south through California and New Mexico and east to Saskatchewan, Michigan, and Texas [31,137,155].

ECOSYSTEMS:
FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie

STATES:
AK   AZ   CA   CO   ID   MI   MT   NE   NV   NM   ND   OR
SD   TX    UT   WA   WY

AB   BC   SK   YK

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS:
 4 Sierra Mountains
 5 Columbia Plateau
 6 Upper Basin and Range
 7 Lower Basin and Range
 8 Northern Rocky Mountains
 9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodlands
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K031 Oak-juniper woodlands
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K033 Chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K044 Creosotebush-tarbush
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalograss
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalograss
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K093 Great Lakes spruce-fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods-fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods-spruce forest

SAF COVER TYPES:
210 Interior Douglas-fir
218 Lodgepole pine
219 Limber pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES:
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
108 Alpine Idaho fescue
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
210 Bitterbrush
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
305 Idaho fescue-Richardson needlegrass
306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass
309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue
322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
404 Threetip sagebrush
405 Black sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
416 True mountain-mahogany
417 Littleleaf mountain-mahogany
419 Bittercherry
421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose
503 Arizona chaparral
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
508 Creosotebush-tarbush
509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
610 Wheatgrass
611 Blue grama-buffalograss
612 Sagebrush-grass
613 Fescue grassland
614 Crested wheatgrass
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
733 Juniper-oak
735 Sideoats grama-sumac-juniper
908 Fescue
914 Mesic sedge-grass-herb meadow tundra
915 Mixed herb-herbaceous

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Bluebunch wheatgrass appears in many habitats, including sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.), mountain brush, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) rocky slopes, plains, dry, open woods, dry slopes, canyons, and openings in fir-spruce (Abies-Picea spp.) communities [137,155.

Vegetation typings describing plant communities in which bluebunch wheatgrass is a dominant species include:

Old-growth forests of the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks [1]
Classification of the forest vegetation of Wyoming [6]
Classification of the forest vegetation of Colorado by habitat type and community type [7]
Distribution of plant communities in southeastern Montana badlands [52]
Forest vegetation of northern Idaho and adjacent Washington and its bearing on concepts of vegetation classification [80]
Steppe vegetation of Washington [82]
Vegetation-soil units in the central Oregon juniper zone [96]
Plant communities and habitat types in the Lava Beds National Monument, California [105]
Native woodland ecology and habitat classifications of southwestern North Dakota [113]
Plant communities of the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington [119]
Upland forest and woodland habitat types of the Missouri Plateau, Great Plains Province [124]
Forest vegetation of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming: a habitat type classification [139]
A sagebrush community type classification for mountainous northeastern Nevada rangelands [147]
Coniferous forest habitat types of northern Utah [170]
Grassland and shrubland habitat types of western Montana [185]
Forest habitat types of Montana [196]
Western-montane plant communities and forest ecosystem perspectives [215]
Forest habitat types of central Idaho [216]
Forested plant associations of the Okanogan National Forest [229]
Grassland types of south central Montana [233]

In Nevada, bluebunch wheatgrass is a community dominant in the black sagebrush (A. nova)/bluebunch, the Utah juniper (J. osteosperma)/black sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass, the singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla)/Utah juniper (J. osteosperma)/black sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass, big sagebrush (A. tridentata)/bluebunch wheatgrass, and Utah juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass communities [35,36,37,].

Bluebunch wheatgrass appears throughout Montana in limber pine (P. flexilis)/bluebunch wheatgrass, ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass, and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat types [16].

Bluebunch wheatgrass appears in the Douglas-fir /common juniper (J. communis)/bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) open forest type in Alberta, Canada, with russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis), white spirea (Spiraea betulifolia), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum), wooly groundsel (Senecio canus), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), and pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) [1].

Bluebunch wheatgrass is a dominant in the Douglas-fir/ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass type in Alberta, Canada, on subxeric to xeric, southerly and westerly aspects of colluvial and morainal landforms with poorly developed Regosolic soils, with spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), and Saskatoon serviceberry [1].

Bluebunch wheatgrass appears in Wyoming in the limber pine/Idaho fescue habitat type with spike fescue (Leucopoa kingii), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), and tapertip hawksbeard (Crepis acuminata); in the limber pine/spike fescue type with prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), Cusick's bluegrass (Poa cusickii), Ross sedge (Carex rossii), timber milkvetch (Astragalus miser), and sticky pulsatilla (Pulsatilla ludoviciana); in the ponderosa pine/Idaho fescue type with pigweed amaranth (Amaranthus albus), threadleaf sedge (C. filifolia), and western yarrow (Achillea millefolium); and in the Douglas-fir/western snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus) type with big sagebrush and wax currant (Ribes cereum) [6].

Bluebunch wheatgrass appears as a dominant in the ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat type in warm, very dry sites in Wyoming, with red threeawn (Aristida purpurea), threadleaf sedge, fringed sagebrush (A. frigida), and Nuttall violet (Viola nuttalli) [6].

On the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Site of the upper Snake River Plain in southeastern Idaho, bluebunch wheatgrass appears with big sagebrush, rubber rabbitbrush, green rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus), bottlebrush squirreltail, Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides) and needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) [12]. At higher elevations in Idaho, bluebunch wheatgrass appears with Utah juniper, big sagebrush, antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), threetip sagebrush (Artemisia tripartita), needle-and-thread grass, Thurber's needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana), and Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda).

In the Blue Mountains of Oregon, bluebunch wheatgrass dominates the bluebunch wheatgrass plants series, which includes Sandberg's bluegrass, red threeawn, milkvetches (Astragalus spp.), Wyeth's buckwheat (Eriogonum heracloides), and plains prickly-pear (Opuntia polyacantha) [3].

In Colorado, bluebunch wheatgrass appears in the Rocky Mountain juniper/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat type with big sagebrush, blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Indian ricegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, and bluebells (Mertensia spp.) [7].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is considered one of the most important forage grass species on western rangelands for both livestock and wildlife [213,225].

PALATABILITY:
Although bluebunch wheatgrass can be a crucial source of forage, it is not necessarily the most highly preferred species. In cattle feeding trials of 8 range grasses, bluebunch wheatgrass was less palatable than crested, western (Pascopyrum smithii), and slender (Elymus trachycaulus) wheatgrasses, tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius), California brome (Bromus carinatus), smooth brome (B. inermis), and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) [145]. In another cattle trial, bluebunch wheatgrass was the least preferred of crested, thickspike (E. lanceolatus), and bluebunch wheatgrasses [152]. In a tractable elk feeding trial with Rocky Mountain elk, bluebunch wheatgrass was chosen less frequently than thickspike and crested wheatgrasses [152]. In tractable mule deer feeding trials, bluebunch wheatgrass was not a preferred plant [21].

Older bluebunch wheatgrass plants lose palatability [31,151].

Livestock and wildlife use of bluebunch wheatgrass is as follows [22,29,31,34,43,45,95,109,117,140,146,151,157,157,161,163,167,171,173,178,181,182]:
                   ID             NV          OR         
cattle             high           high        high       
domestic sheep     ----           high        ----      
elk                medium-high    high        ----        
mule deer          medium         ----        medium-high
white-tailed deer  high in spring ----        ----        
bison              ----           ----        ----       
pronghorn          low            medium      low         
bighorn sheep      high           ----        ----        
feral horses       ----           ----        high        
jackrabbits        ----           ----        ----       


                   MT               UT          BC
cattle             high             ----        ----
domestic sheep     ----             low         ----
elk                high in winter   medium      ----
mule deer          high in spring   medium-high ----
white-tailed deer  ----             ----        ----
bison              medium in winter ----        ----
pronghorn          low              ----        ----
bighorn sheep      high in winter   ----        low-medium
feral horses       ----             ----        ----
jackrabbits        ----             medium      ----
NUTRITIONAL VALUE:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is nutritionally sufficient for some animals for only part of the year. In central Utah, bluebunch wheatgrass had 26.0% protein in spring and 13.6% in fall. Sixteen percent is considered to be the maximum requirement for mule deer. Digestible dry matter was 72.3% in spring and 59.9% in fall. In winter, the forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass is inadequate for elk maintenance in northeastern Oregon [65].

Bluebunch wheatgrass had the lowest crude protein content of 15 forage species in Oregon from flowering in July through maturity. Seasonal variation ranged from almost 25% in May to less than 5% in November [135]. McInnis and Vavra [173] obtained the following crude protein values in Oregon: spring, 16.3%, summer, 5.7%, fall, 3.7%, and winter, 2.3%.

Percent nutrient content of beardless wheatgrass for domestic sheep in the Great Basin was as follows [74]:
Date       Ether     Total     Lignin   Cellulose               
           extract   protein                      
12-14-52   5.1       2.8       7.3      34.9      
11-13-53   3.1       3.4       8.4      42.0      
Mean       4.1       3.1       7.8      38.4      

           Other carbo-  Ash    Ca     P     Carotene                  
           hydrates                          (g/lb)
12-14-52   39.0          11.0   0.50   0.05  0.5
11-13-53   33.0          10.2   0.48   0.06  ---
Mean       36.0          10.6   0.49   0.06  0.5
COVER VALUE:
Bluebunch wheatgrass does not generally provide sufficient cover for ungulates, but the communities are well used when there is appropriate cover nearby. In northeastern Oregon, perennial grasslands featuring bluebunch wheatgrass were generally avoided by white-tailed deer unless hiding cover was nearby [32]. However, mule deer were frequently found in bluebunch-dominated grasslands [43].

In northwestern Montana, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse nests are found primarily under rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) and bluebunch wheatgrass plants [112].

In central Montana, pronghorn are most commonly found in sagebrush-bunchgrass habitats, of which bluebunch wheatgrass is an important component [29].

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Bluebunch wheatgrass seeds are not easily harvested and can be expensive, which, along with some of its botanical characteristics, makes the plant a less desirable choice for reclamation projects [51,89].

Bluebunch wheatgrass seedlings are considered to be fairly weak [159]. Seeding trials with bluebunch wheatgrass have shown limited success. In southern Idaho, bluebunch wheatgrass seedlings failed to establish on 71% of 134 plots, although beardless bluebunch wheatgrass did better than bluebunch wheatgrass, with only 46% of 74 plots failing [144]. Beardless bluebunch wheatgrass was drilled and broadcast seeded in a native seed mix in trials to revegetate a coal mine site in southeastern Montana, but did not perform well [90]. When bluebunch wheatgrass was seeded with a mix of other wheatgrasses (Triticeae) in southern Idaho, including crested wheatgrass, crested wheatgrass eventually dominated the site, and bluebunch wheatgrass disappeared from the study plots [144].

Once established, mature bluebunch wheatgrass plants feature extensive root systems, so they are excellent soil stabilizers [126].

OTHER USES AND VALUES:
No entry

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is moderately grazing tolerant only during its nongrowing period. Lightly grazed plants produce higher growth than ungrazed plants [109]. The plant is extremely sensitive to defoliation during active growth [10,18,39,50,76,85,125,131,134,164,171,174,183,195,211]. Even grazing by small mammals can negatively affect the vigor of bluebunch wheatgrass [200]. Montane meadow mice grazing bluebunch wheatgrass in the winter in Washington significantly reduced survivorship of seedlings [199].

Some authors suggest grazing should be delayed until the late boot stage to protect the stand from degradation [19,31,128]. Heavy grazing may result in degradation or mortality of the stand, and the plant is considered a grazing "decreaser" [41,73,85]. Heavier grazing treatments result in lower root and stem carbohydrate reserves. If reserves are too low going into the winter, the plant may die [110]. In the seedling stage, the slow development of the roots makes plants susceptible to being pulled from the ground during early grazing [166].

Appropriate management may alleviate degradation problems. Eckert and Spencer [100] studied the effects of a rest-rotation grazing system on the mean live basal area of bluebunch wheatgrass in Nevada. Although some of the grazing occurred during the growing season, no significant difference was found in basal area between the grazed and ungrazed plots after 6 years.

In southeastern Idaho, study plots open to domestic sheep grazing over a 10-year period showed significant (P<0.05) decreases in density and frequency of bluebunch wheatgrass, the dominant grass in the habitat type. The authors characterized this decrease as a deterioration of range condition. On sample plots in the study open to cattle grazing, no statistically significant changes were found in cover (basal area) of bluebunch wheatgrass [12].

Root development in bluebunch wheatgrass is slower than in a crested wheatgrass/desert wheatgrass hybrid, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) [18], and crested wheatgrass [28]. Drought resistance was better in crested wheatgrass than bluebunch wheatgrass in a 3-year drought and drought-and-clipping study [58]. The rates of leaf, daughter tiller and total leaf area production, height growth, and total and regrowth yield for both species were lowest under the drought and clipping treatment.

Bluebunch wheatgrass is susceptible to competition from diffuse (Centaurea diffusa) and spotted knapweed (C. maculosa). Even under good range conditions in British Columbia, bluebunch wheatgrass offered little resistance to knapweed invasion [5]. Clipping significantly reduces bluebunch wheatgrass' ability to grow with competition. In a study in Utah, plants were clipped at three levels: none, heavy (clipped once to 50% of weight on June 25), and extreme (a similar clipping, followed by a later clipping of all regrowth). When growing with competition, heavy clipping reduced following year production 38%, and extreme clipping reduced production by 75%. However, without competition, even the heavy clipping plots showed no significant reduction of following year productivity, leading the authors to conclude that in the absence of competition, bluebunch wheatgrass is able to recover from defoliation during the crucial growing time [183].

A study comparing germination rates of bluebunch wheatgrass and medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) concluded that medusahead germinates much more rapidly, especially at colder temperatures, and early season root growth is significantly greater. These characteristics contribute to the ability of medusahead to invade native bunchgrass communities by earlier seedling establishment in the growing season [114]. Cheatgrass and medusahead roots are able to grow at colder temperatures than bluebunch wheatgrass, and once they reach a thermally protected depth, they can continue to grow throughout the winter [131,132]. They may use all available soil moisture in the spring before the roots of bluebunch have begun to grow again [128,129,131]. Bluebunch wheatgrass generally needs temperatures of 39  Fahrenheit (4 C) for root growth, although some ecotypes appear to grow very slowly at 36 Fahrenheit (2 C) and below [131]. In one study in Washington, bluebunch wheatgrass was able to penetrate only four inches (10 cm) before temperatures were too cold for root growth, while cheatgrass grew throughout the winter to a depth of three feet (.9 m) [130].

Roots of bluebunch wheatgrass have a heavy endodermis, a waxy layer that prevents desiccation in dry soil conditions. Cheatgrass roots do not have such a developed endodermis [130,131]; due to its annual life history, cheatgrass puts comparatively fewer resources into root development. This difference explains, in part, why cheatgrass does not easily invade undisturbed, established bluebunch wheatgrass communities.

Throughout the West, the introduced crested and desert wheatgrass species have overtaken much of the historical range of bluebunch wheatgrass. Some of the reasons for the loss of native bluebunch wheatgrass and the ascension of the introduced crested and desert wheatgrasses are related to some small but crucial ecophysiological differences. Following partial defoliation, desert wheatgrass rapidly grows a canopy with three to five times the photosynthetic surface of bluebunch wheatgrass. Also, desert wheatgrass invests less nitrogen per unit area of photosynthetic tissue and has great flexibility in its allocation of nitrogen and carbon resources. Desert wheatgrass takes advantage of soil gaps much better than bluebunch wheatgrass, especially during the winter [103]. Finally, desert wheatgrass can extract soil moisture from deeper underground than bluebunch wheatgrass [30].

One of the characteristics that contributes to the ability of crested wheatgrass to withstand grazing better than bluebunch wheatgrass is its ability to activate basal buds to produce new tiller growth, when apical meristems have been removed. Unlike bluebunch wheatgrass, crested wheatgrass grows these tillers quickly and curtails carbon allocation to root production, thereby increasing photosynthetic area and then restoring root:shoot balance [59,60,204].

Bluebunch wheatgrass seeds are susceptible to wireworm damage and the soil-borne pathogen Podosporiella verticillata [126].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is a native, cool-season, perennial grass with densely tufted culms, 12-30 in. (30-100 cm) tall, erect or nearly so [225]. Bluebunch wheatgrass is capable of an unusually broad range of osmoregulation, which helps the plant survive under a range of moisture conditions [93]. Bluebunch wheatgrass is among the most drought-resistant native bunchgrasses [126].

Maximum rooting depth of bluebunch wheatgrass in Washington is 4.6 feet (1.4 m) [61] and can reach 6.6 feet (2 m) [131]. Roots of mature bluebunch wheatgrass generally are deeper in the soil profile than those of cheatgrass, allowing the plant to acquire soil moisture much better below 1.6 feet (0.5 m) [68]. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) of the genus Glomus are found on the roots of bluebunch wheatgrass [60]. Bluebunch wheatgrass occasionally produces short rhizomes in more mesic environments (above 17.7 inches (450 mm) annual precipitation) [25,72,81,84,88,166].

Root characteristics of beardless bluebunch wheatgrass in Colorado are as follows [44]:
Characteristic                 inches           cm
Maximum root depth              52              132
Maximum lateral spread          20               50
Zone of root concentration     269(in2)       1,737(cm2)
Depth of root concentration     18               46
Diameter of root concentration  16               41
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:
Hemicryptophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is highly self-sterile [20]. The plants do not flower and produce seeds every year [166,177,201]. Seedling establishment tends to be generally poor [13,40,99,131]; bluebunch wheatgrass usually reproduces by tillers [166]. Bluebunch wheatgrass is a facultative autumn-emerging species; seeds will germinate in the fall given appropriate climatic conditions [8]. If appropriate conditions are not present, the seed will either remain dormant or go dormant until winter or spring. In southeastern Montana, bluebunch wheatgrass produces relatively few large seeds. The seeds are able to germinate under a wide range of temperatures, a characteristic that allows the plant to dominate in an inconsistent environment [101]. Optimum germination of bluebunch wheatgrass seeds occurs at 48/68, 48/77, 48/86, 68/77, and 68/86 Fahrenheit (15/20, 15/25, 15/30, 20/25, and 20/30C), where the first number represents 16 hours of cold, and the second, 8 hours of warm temperature [169]. Germination is inhibited by litter of twisted moss (Tortula ruralis) [23].

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Bluebunch wheatgrass requires excellent drainage and mostly full sun [136]. The plant grows under a wide range of precipitation regimes [93], from 6 to 35 inches (150-890 mm), although it grows best above 13.7 inches (350 mm) [126]. In the Intermountain West, bluebunch wheatgrass thrives with less than 17 inches (432 mm) annual precipitation [217]. It grows from 300 to 5,000 feet (91-1524 m), on both northern and southern slopes, depending on location. In Utah, bluebunch wheatgrass dominates from 4,492 to 9,508 feet (1,370-2900 m), and in Arizona, from 4,500 to 7,500 feet (1373-2286 m) [155]. Bluebunch wheatgrass needs at least 10 inches (25 cm) of moderately coarse, loam soils, and is intolerant of excessive salts or soil moisture [63,99,126,213]. In the Columbia Basin region of northeastern Oregon, bluebunch wheatgrass dominates on moderately deep silt loams, on northern exposures up to 30 to 40% slope [9]. In Nevada, bluebunch wheatgrass appears on shallow, stony soils, with a moderate to strongly developed B horizon high in clay [98]. Bluebunch wheatgrass is adapted to mountain brush types in the Intermountain West with southwestern, dry and sunny exposures, in both open (Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii)-Saskatoon serviceberry) and closed (Gambel oak-bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum)) communities [217]. In the Blackfoot River Valley, Montana, bluebunch wheatgrass grows on all aspects but most frequently on southern exposures. The plant displays no significant preference for location on the hillside [42]. Bluebunch wheatgrass appears in sagebrush steppe and open woodland habitat types in California, from 2,623 to 5,410 feet (800-1650 m) [136]. In northeastern Oregon, between 2,800 and 4,000 feet, bluebunch wheatgrass appears with Sandberg bluegrass, rose (Rosa spp.), snowberry, antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), sumac (Rhus glabra), and blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) [10].

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Bluebunch wheatgrass establishes on newly disturbed sites by tillering [71,72206,211]. A mass flowering response after fire [3,191,209] suggests that on burns, it may also establish from seed, but seedling establishment after fire or other disturbance is not documented in the literature. Bluebunch wheatgrass is also common in older, established plant communities [80,82].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Because of bluebunch wheatgrass' extensive latitudinal and elevational range, seasonal development varies. Quinton and others [201] found bluebunch wheatgrass in British Columbia grew as early as mid-March around 1,298 feet (396 m), and by April 7th at 3,597 feet (1097 m). They report growth stopping in June at low elevations and in mid-August at higher elevations.

The seasonal development of bluebunch wheatgrass in central Utah is as follows [39]:
Growth stage             Average date
Snow off                 April 1
Growth started           April 8*
Flower stalks appear     May 23
heads showing            June 5
Heads fully out          June 14
Flowers in bloom         June 25
Seed ripe                July 17
Seed disseminating       July 23
Seed disseminated        August 6
Plant drying             July 7
Plant dried              September 4
  *sometimes plants remain green under the snow during winter,
   so this date is difficult to determine
Dormancy occurs during periods of high temperatures and low soil moisture, usually in July or August [131,177]. Given the appropriate conditions, bluebunch wheatgrass greens up again in the fall [74,83,94,131,151,186], but this response is not ubiquitous [95,174]. There appears to be a negative correlation between fall green up and production the following growing season. Fall green up reduces the plant's carbohydrate reserve, and therefore the plant takes longer the following season to restore the loss [186].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Bluebunch wheatgrass usually survives fires because its buds are protected by soil and/or plant material. Fire frequencies for bluebunch wheatgrass-dominated habitats vary considerably, depending on the associated species [54]. Most mean fire intervals (MFI's) are less than 30 years. In eastern Idaho, MFI prior to fire suppression in a ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat at 3,480 feet (1061 m) was 17.6 years. In a Douglas-fir/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat at 4,800 feet (1464 m), the MFI was 13.2 years [27]. At slightly lower elevations (around 3,000 feet (915 m)) along the Salmon River, in the nearby River of No Return Wilderness, the MFI in 3 Douglas-fir/bluebunch wheatgrass sites ranged from 9.6 to 21 years. In northern Idaho Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine habitat types, MFI's are estimated from 14-22 years for nonlethal surface fires [212]. Estimates for presuppression fire intervals in the Snake River Canyon of Idaho for bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), Sandberg bluegrass, and plains prickly-pear are 10 to 25 years [151]. Burkhardt and Tisdale [56] estimate a prefire suppression MFI of less than 30 years in a big sagebrush/bunchgrass community in southwestern Idaho. Prior to invasion of annual exotic grasses such as cheatgrass, big sagebrush/bunchgrasslands in the Snake River Plain, Idaho, probably did not have enough fuel to carry fire frequently [195,227]. Peters and Bunting [195] estimate a fire frequency of 20 to 100 years in southwestern Idaho.

Bluebunch wheatgrass abundance in response to various fire intervals in western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) communities in the Owyhee Mountains, Idaho, was as follows [53]:
Average fire occurrence (yrs.)
<10                 25                 50                 100       
no change           increase           increase           decrease
The Fire History Database of the Western Unites States includes MFI information for Montana and Wyoming bluebunch wheatgrass habitat types. In Montana, on several Douglas-fir/bluebunch wheatgrass sites, fire regimes were characterized as moderate severity, frequent surface fires, with an MFI of less than 1 to 23 years [134].

Arno [15] estimates mean fire-free interval in the years 1735-1900 to be from 6 to 11 years in the Douglas fir/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat type at 3,800 to 5,000 feet (1159-1525 m) in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. The shorter end of that range, 6 years, may have been affected by frequent Native American burning; the study sites that provided the longer intervals were not likely to have been burned by Indians.

Also in western Montana, Arno and Gruell [17] estimated mean fire interval from 1588 to 1877 in a hot, dry, limber pine/bluebunch wheatgrass site to be 74 years. The authors warn that the length of the interval may be overestimated, since old-growth trees (on which fire history is based) are rare in the harsh habitat, and often occupy rocky, inhospitable sites that are fire refugia. In an area with low fuel accumulation, more frequent, less intense fires may not result in fire scars, and therefore the fires would not be recorded.

On Wyoming bluebunch/Idaho fescue sites, the fire regime featured low-severity, infrequent surface fires, with MFIs from 17 to 62 years [134].

Parminter [190] suggests a MFI of 6 to 15 years in ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass types in British Columbia.

Prior to European settlement and fire suppression, bluebunch wheatgrass plant associations produced enough fuel to burn annually in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, but they were unlikely to do so. Early in the season, high moisture content of the grass reduced the flammability of the plants [3].

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY:
Tussock graminoid


FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Pseudoroegneria spicata
 
Burn line seperating mountain big sagebrush and bluebunch wheatgrass communities, Lassen County, California. Photo courtesy of the PRBO Conservation Science Shrubsteppe Monitoring Program.

IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Burning bluebunch wheatgrass may remove most of the aboveground biomass but does not usually result in plant mortality [205,209]. Bluebunch wheatgrass is generally favored by burning [4]. The buds of bluebunch wheatgrass are well protected from fire by the foliage of the plant [3] or are underground [71,72]. Burning stimulates flowering and seed setting [3,191,209]. However, season of burning affects mortality. Britton and others [49] saw 40% mortality in May-burned plants in Oregon, while June-burned plants suffered only 10% mortality, and no October-burned plants died [49].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
No entry

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
The effect of fire on bunchgrasses relates to culm density, culm-leaf morphology, and the size of the plant [205]. Bluebunch wheatgrass has coarse stems and little leafy material, and therefore the tops burn quickly and little heat is transferred downward into the meristem tissue located near or in the soil [233,234]. Most authors classify the plant as undamaged by fire [162].

Timing of the burn is an important factor in determining the effects of fire on bluebunch wheatgrass [118,209,234]. Bluebunch wheatgrass probably suffers the least amount of damage if burned while dormant [175], and the most if burned while actively growing, prior to dormancy [234]. Most authors conclude that fall burning generally causes less damage to the plants than spring burning and stimulates productivity of bluebunch wheatgrass following the fire [50,209]. November and March burning in British Columbia reduced tiller production in bluebunch wheatgrass the following spring. Meristem tissue was elevated in March and therefore more susceptible to higher temperatures [230]. However, Cook and others [75] recommend spring burning to increase bluebunch wheatgrass productivity.

Range and others [202] evaluated the effects of prescribed burns on bluebunch wheatgrass in Nevada. The burns occurred in late August, when the plants were dormant. Their study sample was small, but the plants that died appeared to suffer from 2 factors. One, the dead plants were in areas of deep litter or surrounding brush, both of which increase the duration and temperature of the flame. Two, increased litter may increase the moisture of the plants themselves, increasing heat conductivity inside the plant. The authors also mentioned lack of postfire precipitation as a possible factor in bluebunch mortality.

Recovery of bluebunch wheatgrass following fire is rapid to very rapid, usually 1 to 3 years [55] or 3 to 5 years [219]. However, the plants may be damaged and recover more slowly if burned in a dry year [46,233]. One of the most important factors affecting the ability of bluebunch wheatgrass to recover from fire is the availability of soil moisture following the burn, regardless of season [205].

Postfire productivity varies considerably. While few studies clearly show a permanent negative effect of fire on the survival and productivity of the plant, the degree to which bluebunch wheatgrass responds positively to fire is disputed [57,62,66,67,72,75,86,118,127,148,162,168,176,177,180,189,193,194,205]. Most studies suggest a 1st year decrease in productivity following fire [198,209,221,226,228,232,235], followed by increased productivity in the following years. In Wyoming, bluebunch wheatgrass production averaged 3.9 times higher on 4 3-year-old burned sites than on controls. Differences were significant (P<0.05) on 2 of the sites, but only after the 2nd post-burn year [75].

In a basin big sagebrush (A. t. ssp. tridentata) community in east-central Oregon, mortality  of bluebunch wheatgrass was significantly less (P<0.1) on spring- than fall-burned plots. Mean density, basal area, and number of flowering culms of bluebunch wheatgrass was significantly greater (P<0.1) on fall-burned plots compared to density, basal area, and number of flowering culms on spring-burned and control plots [209]. See the Research Project Summary of this work for more information on fire effects on bluebunch wheatgrass and 60 additional grasses, forbs, and woody plant species.

Other factors that may affect bluebunch wheatgrass productivity following fire include habitat type, aspect, and climate. In the Missouri River Breaks area of central Montana, bluebunch wheatgrass canopy in a north-facing Douglas-fir/Rocky Mountain juniper association was reduced for several years, in part due to mortality, but 12 years after the burn it was the dominant grass species on the site, with up to 53% canopy coverage, compared to the unburned site with 4% [102]. Burning was less severe, with less fuel, on a nearby ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass site, and the bluebunch wheatgrass responded quite differently. Coverage was reduced the 1st year following burning, but by the 3rd year following the burn, bluebunch wheatgrass and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) had already reached 52% coverage on the site.

In western juniper woodlands in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho, bluebunch wheatgrass can suffer high mortality in stands with dense tree overstories. Fire intensity of prescribed fires often must be high in order to get these low-fuel stands to burn, and if there is sparse understory bluebunch wheatgrass, there may not be sufficient survival to regenerate a stand [53].

The primary effect of fire on bluebunch wheatgrass in northeastern Oregon was on plant size (basal area), not on plant density [72].

Antos and others [14] evaluated the effects of a human-caused fire on a fescue (Festuca spp.)-dominated grassland in western Montana. Rough fescue (F. scabrella) dominates the site, with Idaho fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. The site averages around 13 inches (340 mm) of precipitation, mostly in winter, and spans from 3,200 to 5,100 feet (975-1570 m). The authors estimate the presettlement fire frequency to be slightly longer than 6 years. The fire burned 121 acres (49 ha) in June, 1977, a very dry (55% of average precipitation) year. Almost all aboveground biomass was charred or consumed, and many bunchgrasses burned below the surface.

Due to the mosaic nature of the burn, the researchers were able to do burned/unburned comparisons. The following chart details the effects of the burn on the average percent cover of bluebunch wheatgrass on the study plots [14]:

  Autumn 1977           Spring 1978           Summer 1978
Unburned   Burned     Unburned   Burned     Unburned   Burned
5.2        4.1        3.1        4.8        3.9        5.5
These values reflect no significant difference between burned and unburned stands. The authors found the buds 0.39 inch (1 cm) below the soil surface, apparently deep enough to avoid damage, since vigorous resprouting occurred. The authors concluded that the timing of the fire in June, when bluebunch wheatgrass was dormant at the onset of the summer drought, allowed the plant to be unaffected by fire. They also concluded that this site may be most resistant to change in response to fire with a fire frequency of from 5-10 years. Clark and others [65] studied seedbank density on blue grama, bluebunch wheatgrass and Idaho fescue grasslands in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and how the grasslands were affected by the 1988 fires. They concluded that fire in such grasslands reduces seedbank density approximately by half, but they did not specify the exact species effect.

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
In south-central Montana, an antelope bitterbrush-mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana)-bluebunch wheatgrass community was burned and allowed to rest from grazing for 1 year following the burn. After 8 years, vegetation populations were measured. There was no significant difference in bluebunch wheatgrass between the burned and unburned plots [107].

On the Snake River Plain in Idaho, sagebrush steppe was burned to eradicate big sagebrush and to assess the effects of various eradication techniques on associated species. Three years after the burn, production of bluebunch wheatgrass on the burned plots was less than half that of the controls, leading the authors to call bluebunch wheatgrass "harmed by burning" [187]. However, for cattle management purposes, the authors still concluded that the eradication of big sagebrush made more grass available as forage, even if absolute numbers were lower following the burn.

Concannon [71] compared vegetation on several burned and adjacent unburned sites in southeastern Oregon. On 69% of the study area, bluebunch wheatgrass showed higher cover on burned than unburned sites, including 1 site with 5 times the cover of bluebunch following fire. On 25% of the study area, coverage of bluebunch wheatgrass decreased following fire. Two of the 4 decreaser sites were on 2- or 3-year-old burns, one on a heavily grazed area, and one on an area disturbed by rodents. Concannon concluded that protection from grazing throughout the 1st growing season, until seed maturity in the 2nd season following the fire would greatly increase bluebunch wheatgrass production and survival.

On ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir communities in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, bluebunch wheatgrass cover and frequency in postfire year 4 were higher on prescribed burned sites than on thinned, thinned-and-burned, or unburned control sites. Bluebunch wheatgrass was determined to be an indicator species for burned sites (P0.05). For further information on the effects of thinning and burning treatments on bluebunch wheatgrass and 48 other species, see the Research Project Summary of Youngblood and others' [236] study.

For further information on on prescribed fire use and postfire response of plant species including bluebunch wheatgrass, see Fire Case Studies, Lyon's Research Paper, and the following Research Project Summaries:

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Some studies have looked at the flammability of bluebunch wheatgrass and the role it plays as a fine fuel. Estimates for the time to reach 63% of total moisture change for bluebunch wheatgrass is approximately 2.5 hours, both to absorb and desorb moisture. This value ranked bluebunch wheatgrass as the second fastest drying species in 1 study, behind cheatgrass [11].

Fire suppression and the invasion of exotic species have altered succession and fire regimes from presettlement communities. Exclusion of fire from western juniper/bunchgrass communities shifts dominance from grasses to western junipers in Oregon, since western junipers are usually killed by fire [3,4]. Frequent burning, either intentional or as a result of cheatgrass invasion, favors annual grass establishment over perennial grasses [197,224]. Tausch and others [220] studied the re-establishment of various perennial grasses in a Utah juniper-Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis) habitat in Nevada. Cheatgrass outcompeted bluebunch wheatgrass on some sites, and the authors postulate that on harsh sites, cheatgrass may establish more readily following fire if the VAM-dependent perennial species, like bluebunch wheatgrass, are nitrogen deficient when the VAM are killed by fire.

Cook and others [75] postulate that prescribed burning in high-elevation basin big sagebrush communities has a particularly strong positive effect on perennial grasses, including bluebunch wheatgrass. They argue that burning in lower elevation grasslands, areas with competitive annual herbs such as cheatgrass, and xeric areas does not produce the same positive results.

Plants that undergo fire and subsequent defoliation have significantly higher mortality and lower productivity and reproduction than plants exposed to fire alone [55,180,219]. Livestock often collect in recently burned range areas to eat the highly palatable regrowth of bluebunch wheatgrass, which can be particularly damaging to stand regeneration [71].

Burning has been found to improve the nutritional quality and palatability of bluebunch wheatgrass in some studies. Burned bluebunch wheatgrass may have higher protein content than unburned controls for 2 years following the burn [219]. In Wyoming, burning significantly increased the crude protein content of the bluebunch wheatgrass, from 8% in August on the control plots, to 11% on the burned plots [75]. However, in the Snake River Canyon of Idaho, no differences were found between burned and unburned plots following a prescribed burn [151].

November burning in big sagebrush and Douglas-fir communities in British Columbia raised the spring calcium, phosphorous and magnesium concentrations in leaves of bluebunch wheatgrass [231]. Hobbs and Spowart [138] looked at the nutritional quality of forage on burned and unburned grassland and mountain shrub sites in Colorado. They found that mountain sheep and mule deer preferred grass on burned sites in the winter. The authors concluded that the blackened earth maintained higher soil temperatures following the burn, enabling more fall green up, and therefore, more available forage. Other authors have also found fall burning to increase soil temperatures [230]. When soil is blackened following fire, it warms up more quickly in the spring, allowing plants to commence growth earlier [230]. The temperature increases have been recorded from 19 to 26 Fahrenheit (-7 to -3 C) and the effects last 2 seasons [179].

Burning ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat types appeared to increase their use by mule deer during the winter [158]. However, in a study in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, eastern Idaho, white-tailed deer avoided or under-utilized burned ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass/Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) sites during January through May [157].

In Yellowstone National Park, following the fires of 1988, Norland and others [188] studied the effects of fire on elk habitat. They concluded that protein content and digestible dry matter of bluebunch wheatgrass was significantly greater in the fall of 1989 on burned than unburned plots, and crude protein continued to be significantly higher in the fall of 1990. Digestible dry matter was higher in 1990 as well, but not significantly.

Bluebunch wheatgrass responds more favorably to fire than does Idaho fescue [3,4,72,211,219].

FIRE CASE STUDIES



1st CASE STUDY:

FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION:
Zlatnik, Elena, compiler. 1999. Prescribed burning for rangeland and wildlife habitat improvement on the Fort Rock Ranger District, central Oregon: effects on bluebunch wheatgrass. In: Pseudoroegneria spicata. In:Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

REFERENCE:
Adams, Glenn R. 1980. Results of range/wildlife prescribed burning on the Fort Rock Ranger District in central Oregon. R-6 Fuels Management Notes. September 24, 1980. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Aviation and Fire Management. 6 p. [2].

SEASON, SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
Spring and fall, low to severe

STUDY LOCATION:
The south-southwest slope of Pine Mountain, Fort Rock Ranger District, Oregon

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:
Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)-antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)/bunchgrass community with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), sedges (Carex spp.), junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), and decadent shrub canopy, and a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)/antelope bitterbrush-big sagebrush/Idaho fescue community in similar condition.

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:
Not given

SITE DESCRIPTION:
The site ranged from 15 to 60% slope, at an elevation of 5,500 feet to 6,850 feet (1678-2089 m), with well-drained, shallow to moderately deep volcanic ash residuum and colluvium soils, with some pumice.

FIRE DESCRIPTION:
Burning prescriptions, techniques, and conditions were as follows:
                   Spring 1979   Fall 1979     Spring 1980
Temperature        62F (17C)   60F (16C)   64F (18C)
Relative humidity  32%           29%           31%
10 hour F.M.       12%           9%            14%
Slope              5-35%         5-35%         15-40%
Aspect             S/SE          S/SE          S
Wind speed         6-8 m.p.h.    5-10 mph      5 mph
Wind direction     SE            S/SE          SE
Month              April         September     April
Live FMC           150%+         50%+          150%+
The younger, more discontinuous stands of big sagebrush and antelope bitterbrush did not support free-burning fire. In the older, more continuous shrub stands, flame lengths were 5-15 feet (1.5-4.6 m), Byram's fireline intensity was 180-2,000 BTU/ft-s (8-90 kcal/sec/m2), and the rate of spread was 11 to 22 feet/minute. Fire behavior was characterized as either inconsequential or severe, apparently due to small changes in wind speed, fuel moisture content, and relative humidity.

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:
Both burning seasons resulted in increased stand density and patchiness of vegetation. Following the spring burns, bluebunch wheatgrass and all of the grasses and sedges sprouted, and stand vigor improved following the first growing season. After the second growing season, the areas burned in the spring of 1979 produced 1,735 pounds of grass and "green weight" per acre, compared to 133 lbs/acre on a similar unburned area.

The authors did not publish forage production effects for the fall burn.
2nd CASE STUDY:
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION:
Zlatnik, Elena, compiler. 1999. Effects of a prescribed burn on an Idaho sagebrush/bunchgrass site on bluebunch wheatgrass. In: Pseudoroegneria spicata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

REFERENCE:
Blaisdell, James P. 1953. Ecological effects of planned burning of sagebrush-grass range on the upper Snake River Plains. Tech. Bull. 1975. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 39 p. [38].

SEASON, SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
August, 1936, severity not given

STUDY LOCATION:
U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, 11 miles northeast of Dubois, Clark County, Idaho

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:
This was a big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)/bunchgrass site with 35% perennial grasses including bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus), plains reedgrass (Calamagrostis montanesis), sedges (Carex spp.), prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), Sandberg's bluegrass (Poa secunda), and needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata); 5% perennial forbs and 5% annual forbs; 40% big sagebrush; and 15% downy rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus puberulus), spineless gray horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens var. inermis), and other shrubs.

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:
Seeds had been disseminated and plants were dry or nearly dry. The site had not been grazed the previous growing season in order to have sufficient fuels to carry the fire.

SITE DESCRIPTION:
The study site was at approximately 6,000 feet (1830 m) elevation, with 11 inches (279 mm) annual precipitation, with sandy soils of basaltic origin. Dry southwestern winds during the summer months make this an arid site, with 100 Fahrenheit (38 C) temperatures possible in the summer and -35 Fahrenheit (-37 C) in the winter.

FIRE DESCRIPTION:
The fire burned in a mosaic pattern, with scattered unburned islands. Immediately following the burn, the study plots were classified according to the following definitions: 1) heavy burn-trunk or main stem of big sagebrush consumed, 2) moderate burn-larger branches of big sagebrush remaining but smaller ones consumed, 3) light burn-only leaves consumed, and 4) unburned-no evidence of fire in brush or understory.

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:
Within 3 years of the burn, bluebunch wheatgrass was producing as much as or more than under prefire conditions. After 12 years, the burned plots were producing (lbs./acre) considerably more bluebunch wheatgrass, but the values were not statistically significant:
unburned     light burn     moderate burn     heavy burn
16.5         32.3           29.5              23.1
As big sagebrush re-established on the site, the gains of bluebunch wheatgrass tapered off, but production was still higher than on the unburned controls.

FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:
The authors conclude that burns of heavy intensity are most damaging to bluebunch wheatgrass, and the best management for the plant would include light intensity burning.

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