Unless otherwise indicated, the information in this Research Project Summary comes from the following papers:
Gucker, Corey. 2004. Canyon grassland vegetation changes following the Maloney Creek wildfire. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 80 p. Thesis. .
Gucker, Corey L.; Bunting, Stephen C. 2011. Canyon grassland vegetation changes following fire in northern Idaho. Western North American Naturalist. 71(1): 97-105. .STUDY LOCATION:
Study sites are classified in the following plant community and probably historically experienced the fire regime described below:
|Table 1. Fire regime information on the vegetation community studied in this Research Project Summary. Fire regime characteristics are taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model , which was developed by using expert opinion as documented in the PDF file linked from the Potential Natural Vegetation Group listed below. Cells are blank where information was not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.|
|Northern and Central Rockies|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
Replacement=Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed=Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low=Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [3,4].
The lighting-ignited Maloney Creek Wildfire burned approximately 74,515 acres (30,155 ha) and a large portion of the Garden Creek Nature Preserve. Only plots in the China Creek Watershed burned. Plots burned in a low-severity backing fire on 20 August 2000. Humidity ranged from 27% to 33%, air temperature averaged 74.5 °F (23.6 °C), and winds were 0 to 10.4 miles (16.7 km)/h with gusts of up to 21.9 miles (35.2 km)/h when plots in the China Creek Watershed burned.FIRE EFFECTS ON PLANT COMMUNITY:
Native grasses: Bluebunch wheatgrass decreased briefly following fire. Bluebunch wheatgrass cover was significantly (P=0.035) lower on burned than unburned sites in the 2nd postfire year, but average cover on burned and unburned plots was not significantly different by the 3rd postfire year. In the 3rd postfire year, bluebunch wheatgrass coverage on burned plots exceeded prefire coverage. Sandberg bluegrass coverage was significantly greater on burned than unburned plots in the 2nd (P=0.045) and 3rd postfire years (P=<0.0001).
Nonnative grasses: Cheatgrass cover was significantly (P=0.002) greater on unburned than burned plots just before the fire (2000), but by the 3rd postfire year these differences were lost (P=0.343) due to large increases in cheatgrass cover on burned plots. Cover of Japanese brome increased on both burned and unburned plots following the fire, but cover was significantly (P=0.017) greater on unburned than burned plots only in the 2nd postfire year. Coverage on burned and unburned plots was not significantly (P>0.05) different in the 3rd postfire year.
Native perennial forbs: Individual fire responses were analyzed for arrowleaf balsamroot, silky lupine, and western yarrow. There were no significant differences in arrowleaf balsamroot coverage on burned and unburned plots in any year. However, average coverage did decrease from nearly 13% just before the fire to 6.8% in the 2nd postfire year. Silky lupine cover decreased slightly on unburned plots and increased on burned plots. By the 3rd postfire year, burned plots had significantly (P<0.0001) greater silky lupine coverage than unburned plots. Western yarrow decreased dramatically on burned plots. Western yarrow cover was significantly greater on burned than unburned plots (P=0.002 in 1999, P=0.014 in 2000) prior to burning. Due to decreases on burned plots, differences in western yarrow coverage on burned and unburned plots were lost after the fire.
Nonnative forbs: Yellow starthistle coverage was not significantly different on burned and unburned plots in any time before or after the fire. However, yellow starthistle coverage generally decreased over time on unburned plots and was relatively unchanged on burned plots.
Life form groups: Many species in the study area contributed low overall plot coverage and were analyzed as groups. Nonnative annual forb cover was significantly (P=0.018) lower on burned plots than on unburned plots prior to the fire, but by the 3rd postfire year coverage was significantly (P=0.003) greater on burned plots. Nonnative annual forb cover increased on both burned and unburned plots following the fire. Native annual forbs also increased on both burned and unburned plots after the fire, but native annual forb cover was significantly (P=0.025) greater on burned than unburned plots in the 3rd postfire year. Data were pooled for several perennial forbs, not analyzed individually (see Native perennial forbs). These forbs increased on both burned and unburned plots, and differences in perennial forb cover on burned and unburned plots were not significantly different. Increases were likely due in part to favorable postfire moisture conditions.
|Table 2. Pre- and postfire cover on burned and unburned plots (for species with >0.5% average cover in at least 1 pre- or postfire year)|
|Time since fire (years)||pre||pre||2||3|
Average cover (%)
|Native perennial forbs|
|Snake River phlox||UB||0.20a||0.27a||0.71a||0.39a|
|Nonnative annual forbs|
|Nonnative perennial forbs|
|Native perennial grasses|
|Nonnative perennial grasses|
|Nonnative annual grasses|
|rattail sixweeks grass||UB||0.08||0.42||1.70||0|
|* UB=unburned, B=burned.
**Burned and unburned coverage values with different subscripts within the same species or year are significantly (P<0.05) different.
Diversity and evenness: Species richness, Pielou's evenness, Simpson's diversity, and Shannon-Weiner's diversity were evaluated for burned and unburned plots. Species richness on burned and unburned plots was not significantly different in any study year before or after the fire. Species composition was relatively unchanged by fire. Pielou's evenness was not different before the fire but was significantly (P=0.001) greater on burned than unburned plots in the 3rd postfire year. Simpson's and Shannon-Weiner's diversity index were both significantly (P<0.03) greater on burned than unburned plots in the 2nd and 3rd postfire years. Increased evenness and relatively unchanged species richness on burned plots suggests that changes in Simpson's and Shannon-Weiner's diversity reflect increased homogeneity for species coverage and not an addition of species on burned plots.
Seral stage: For those species typically used to determine seral stage within the bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass-arrowleaf balsamroot habitat type, differences in a given year between burned and unburned sites were evaluated within early, mid-, and late-seral plots. Sample sizes within a given seral stage were small.
Native species: There were no significant differences in bluebunch wheatgrass cover on burned and unburned plots in any year or seral stage. However, average bluebunch wheatgrass cover nearly doubled on early-seral burned plots. For all seral stages, the cover of Sandberg bluegrass was significantly (P<0.02) greater on burned than unburned plots in the 3rd postfire year. Arrowleaf balsamroot cover was variable, and high variances affected significance results. Average arrowleaf balsamroot cover decreased slightly but not significantly following the fire in all but the late-seral burned plots.
Nonnative species: Overall, yellow starthistle cover decreased on both burned and unburned plots (see Table 2), but slight increases occurred on mid- and late-seral burned plots when data were analyzed by seral stage (see Table 3). Cheatgrass increased on early-, mid-, and late-seral burned and unburned plots. In the late-seral plots, cheatgrass cover on unburned sites was significantly (P<0.01) greater than burned sites until the 3rd postfire year.
|Table 3. Average pre- and postfire cover on early, mid-, and late-seral burned and unburned plots for species used to determine seral stage|
|Time since fire (years)||pre||pre||2||3|
Average cover (%)
|* UB=unburned, B=burned.
**Burned and unburned coverage values with different letters within the same species, year, or seral stage are significantly (P<0.05) different.
|Common name||Scientific name|
|western yarrow||Achillea millefolium|
|thymeleaf sandwort||Arenaria serpyllifolia|
|waha milkvetch||Astragalus arthurii|
|Cusick's milkvetch||Astragalus cusickii|
|arrowleaf balsamroot||Balsamorhiza sagittata|
|yellow starthistle||Centaurea solstitialis|
|cutleaf filaree||Erodium cicutarium|
|fernleaf biscuitroot||Lomatium dissectum|
|nineleaf biscuitroot||Lomatium triternatum|
|silky lupine||Lupinus sericeus|
|strict forget-me-not||Myosotis stricta|
|Snake River phlox||Phlox colubrina|
|narrowleaf scullcap||Scutellaria angustifolia|
|shiny chickweed||Stellaria nitens|
|Lewiston cornsalad||Valerianella locusta|
|meadow deathcamas||Zigadenus venenosus|
|Japanese brome||Bromus japonicus|
|bulbous bluegrass||Poa bulbosa|
|Sandberg bluegrass||Poa secunda|
|bluebunch wheatgrass||Pseudoroegneria spicata|
|rattail sixweeks grass||Vulpia myuros|
1. Gucker, Corey L.; Bunting, Stephen C. 2011. Canyon grassland vegetation changes following fire in northern Idaho. Western North American Naturalist. 71(1): 97-105. 
2. Gucker, Corey. 2004. Canyon grassland vegetation changes following the Maloney Creek wildfire. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 80 p. Thesis. 
3. Hann, Wendel; Havlina, Doug; Shlisky, Ayn; [and others]. 2010. Interagency fire regime condition class (FRCC) guidebook, [Online]. Version 3.0. In: FRAMES (Fire Research and Management Exchange System). National Interagency Fuels, Fire & Vegetation Technology Transfer (NIFTT) (Producer). Available: http://www.fire.org/niftt/released/FRCC_Guidebook_2010_final.pdf. 
4. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2005. Reference condition modeling manual (Version 2.1), [Online]. In: LANDFIRE. Cooperative Agreement 04-CA-11132543-189. Boulder, CO: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior (Producers). 72 p. Available: http://www.landfire.gov/downloadfile.php?file=RA_Modeling_Manual_v2_1.pdf [2007, May 24]. 
5. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2007. Rapid assessment reference condition models, [Online]. In: LANDFIRE. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab; U.S. Geological Survey; The Nature Conservancy (Producers). Available: http://www.landfire.gov/models_EW.php [2008, April 18] 
6. Robins, Sandra S. 2001. Effects of perennial plant competition on the invasibility of canyon grassland communities by Centaurea solstitialis. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 54 p. Thesis. 
7. Tisdale, E. W. 1986. Canyon grasslands and associated shrublands of west-central Idaho and adjacent areas. Bulletin No. 40. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences. 42 p. [Contribution No. 284; Forest, Wildlife and Range Experiment Station].