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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Managing Invasive Annual Brome Grasses and Altered Fire Regimes

Photo of A sagebrush ecosystem in north central Nevada converted to the invasive annual brome-grass, cheatgrass, by wildfire. Nolan E. Preece.A sagebrush ecosystem in north central Nevada converted to the invasive annual brome-grass, cheatgrass, by wildfire. Nolan E. Preece.Snapshot : Invasive annual brome grasses are resulting in altered fire regimes and conversion of native arid and semi-arid ecosystems in the western United States to annual grass dominance. The problem is particularly acute in sagebrush shrublands where cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has resulted in annual grass fire cycles that place numerous native species such as greater sage-grouse at risk and threaten ecosystem services such as livestock forage, hunting and recreation, and even clean air and water.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Chambers, Jeanne C.  
Research Location : Western United States
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 999


Forest Service research featured in a 15-chapter book (Exotic brome-grasses in arid and semiarid ecosystems of the western US: Causes, consequences, and management implications) examines the environmental impacts, invasiveness, environmental controls, and management alternatives for invasive annual brome-grasses. The first section addresses patterns and impacts of invasion, generating a “35,000 foot view” of where, when, and how invasion by the dominant exotic annual brome-grasses has varied among ecoregions in the Western United States. This analysis reveals that brome-grasses have had very different impacts in different areas. Ecosystem effects are then examined in further detail, focusing mostly on cheatgrass, and providing a basis for why brome-grasses are a concern. The second section of the book explores the broad evolutionary, reproductive, and biogeographic traits and patterns affecting the genetic diversification and colonization of the western U.S. by brome-grasses, particularly cheatgrass. The third section evaluates soil, climate, and plant-community controls on brome-grasses to characterize key aspects of invasibility of sites, plant communities, or regions. The last section explores human and economic dimensions and management options related to both spread and management of brome-grasses. A comprehensive review of management treatments and their effectiveness is then provided with a focus on restoring and maintaining sustainable ecosystems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Susan E. Meyer, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Cynthia S. Brown, Colorado State University
  • Matthew J. Germino, U.S. Geological Survey