Disentangling the Effects of Multiple Fires on Spatially Interspersed Sagebrush Communities

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There is a need to better assimilate local landscape-scale research on vegetation characteristics within a broader understanding of fire regimes to aid management and treatment responses to fire.

Researchers examined fire effects on big sagebrush and scabland sagebrush communities that experienced multiple fires over a 10-year period to better understand how different sagebrush communities respond to disturbance from fire. Big sagebrush experienced nearly complete shrub loss and conversion from exotic invaded-shrubland to exotic annual grassland after only one fire. In contrast, scabland sagebrush retained a minor shrub component and higher relative cover of native herbaceous species, even after three fires. Both communities retained cover of native perennial grasses. Despite different community-level responses, increasing fire frequency is transforming the landscape to a nonnative-native grassland mix. Quantifying unique ecosystem responses to altered wildfire regimes is critical to understand the relative resilience of communities to disturbance and their resistance to exotic species invasion. 

Shinneman, D.J., McIlroy, S.K., de Graaff, M., 2020, Disentangling the effects of multiple fires on spatially interspersed sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities: Journal of Vegetation Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/jvs.12937 

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Date published: November 20, 2017
Status: Active

Fire Ecology in Dynamic Ecosystems Team (FRESC)

Understanding how fire and other disturbances affect ecosystem health and resiliency is critically important for land managers and for society as a whole.