Post-Fire Growth of Seeded and Planted Big Sagebrush – Strategic Designs for Restoring Greater Sage-grouse Nesting Habitat

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Recent wildfire-induced losses of big sagebrush are outpacing natural recovery and leading to substantial losses in habitat for species such as greater sage-grouse.

Restoration strategies include planting container-grown sagebrush or using conventional seeding methods, yet empirical comparisons of sagebrush growth post-fire are lacking. Researchers evaluated sagebrush height and canopy area growth rates for plants established in locations within the Great Basin, relating recovery rates to previously published nesting habitat requirements for sage-grouse. Under average weather conditions, sagebrush will require at least three years and a relatively high density to achieve the minimum recommended cover for sage-grouse. Planted sagebrush reached heights to meet sage-grouse nesting requirements one year earlier than seeded plants, yet after eight years, seeded individuals grew taller with more canopy area than planted sagebrush. Combining high-density planted patches with seedings, or with less-dense planted patches over larger areas, will help achieve landscape habitat requirements for greater sage-grouse as well as other sagebrush-obligate species. 

Pyke, D.A., Shriver, R.K., Arkle, R.S., Pilliod, D.S., Aldridge, C.L., Coates, P.S., Germino, M.J., Heinrichs, J.A., Ricca, M.A., Shaff, S.E., 2020, Post-fire growth of seeded and planted big sagebrush - strategic designs for restoring Greater Sage-grouse nesting habitat: Restoration Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13264 

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Date published: November 28, 2017
Status: Active

Restoration and Ecology of Arid Lands Team (FRESC)

The focus of our research is on the restoration and monitoring of the plants and soils of the Intermountain West. Our lab is part of the Snake River Field Station, but is located in Corvallis, Oregon. Research topics include fire rehabilitation effects and effectiveness, indicators of rangeland health, invasive species ecology, and restoration of shrub steppe ecosystems.

Contacts: David A Pyke