Sagebrush communities are the cornerstones of arid ecosystems in the West, mitigating soil erosion, fostering plant and animal biodiversity, storing carbon, and providing cover and forage for wildlife, such as the greater sage-grouse. However, these ecosystems are being compromised by increased fire frequency and climate change, coupled with encroachment of invasive plants.Subsequently, post-fire restoration has become a fundamental component for maintaining ecosystem function and resiliency in these communities. Knowledge of how plants are adapted to their environments is fundamental to ecological restoration and mitigating impacts from climate change.
This research focuses on ecological genetics of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), which is under threat principally from wildfire and exotic weed encroachment. Conserving and restoring big sagebrush is critical for the recovery of sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and other sagebrush-dependent wildlife species. Our goal is to provide management tools to promote successful restoration by: 1) predicting the geographic areas where contemporary and future climates are suitable for this species, 2) developing empirical seed transfer zones, and 3) developing subspecies diagnostic tests to improve seed purity.