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Abiotic and biotic influences on Bromus tectoreum invasion and Artemisia tridentata recovery after fire

Posted date: July 18, 2011
Publication Year: 
2011
Authors: Condon, Lea; Weisberg, Peter J.; Chambers, Jeanne C.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire. 20: 597-604.

Abstract

Native sagebrush ecosystems in the Great Basin (western USA) are often invaded following fire by exotic Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), a highly flammable annual grass. Once B. tectorum is established, higher fire frequencies can lead to local extirpation of Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana (mountain big sagebrush) and have cascading effects on sagebrush ecosystems and the species that depend on them. We conducted a landscape-scale observational study to examine the distribution and cover of B. tectorum and A. tridentata 6 years after a large wildland fire. We used structural equation models to quantify the interacting influences of pre-fire tree canopy cover, perennial species cover, distance from potential seed source, and site environment on post-fire cover of B. tectorum and A. tridentata. Results confirmed a hypothesised negative effect of pre-fire tree canopy cover on post-fire cover of A. tridentata. Site- and landscape-level abiotic factors influenced pre-fire tree canopy cover, which, in turn, influenced the probability of rapid recovery to A. tridentata. However, B. tectorum cover was primarily influenced by a positive effect of incident solar radiation and a negative effect of perennial herbaceous species cover. Restoration efforts to reduce tree canopy cover should be limited to productive sites with sufficient cover of perennial herbaceous species to facilitate site recovery.

Citation

Condon, Lea; Weisberg, Peter J.; Chambers, Jeanne C. 2011. Abiotic and biotic influences on Bromus tectoreum invasion and Artemisia tridentata recovery after fire. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 20: 597-604.