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Issue 98  |  July 25, 2014

3 Drivers of Successful
Post-Fire Seeding in the Great Basin



Fire Rehabilitation Effectiveness:
A Chronosequence Approach for the Great Basin 

Above: Crested wheat grass was successfully drill-seeded at this high altitude study site in Utah.  A few minor patches of cheatgrass were present, along with some desert madwort and a fair amount of litter.
The effects of annual precipitation, elevation, and topography on seeding outcomes were studied to determine where future rehabilitation might be most successful. Research was conducted on 88 sites across the Great Basin, 8-21 years after post-fire seeding treatments were implemented.  Selected sites were only burned once.

 -  Determine post-fire seeding effects on cover and density of seeded perennial plants
 -  Determine cover of bare ground and undesirable non-native annual bromes and forbs
 -  Determine long-term effects of drill versus aerial seeding on different types of vegetation cover 

 -  On average, wildfires burn about 1 million acres annually in the Great Basin.
 -  Invasive annual grasses are altering Great Basin fire regimes, affecting ecosystem function and fragmenting habitats for species dependent on sagebrush.

 -  The ES&R (Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation) program on BLM-managed lands may benefit from an adaptive management approach to improve seeding success
 -  These findings may inform decisions through comparing costs of seeding relative to benefits of achieving seeding objectives. 
 -  Native perennial grasses did best when sown without non-native perennial grasses.

 -  Areas where ES&R seedings were successful, providing an increase in perennial grass cover and decrease in cheatgrass, were primarily limited to locations drill-seeded with non-native grasses at moist, high elevation sites.
 -  Cover of cheatgrass was highest in hot and dry, low elevation areas. Seeding treatments at these locations had little effect on perennial plant cover.
 -  Seeding at lower, drier locations would likely require multiple interventions to be successful.
 -  Seeding native shrubs had little effect on shrub cover, however managers might consider transplanting or use of native-only seed-mixes on sites with higher annual precipitation.
 -  Aerial seeding applications without seed cover methods did not provide establishment of non-native, deep-rooted perennial grasses sufficient for impacting annual bromes.
 -  The study could not evaluate grazing management practices that likely affected long-term ES&R outcomes and warrants further investigation.
Above: Aerial seeding at this low-mid altitude study site in Nevada resulted in over 90% cover of cheatgrass, mostly weeds (tumble mustard and stork's bill) and lots of surface litter.
Read the Journal of Applied Ecology article
Read JFSP Final Report
Read more about Emergency Stabilization & Rehabilitation
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