Thresholds and Hotspots for Shrub Restoration Following a Heterogeneous Megafire

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Reestablishing perennial native shrubs is essential to short-term rehabilitation and long-term restoration of plant communities in the sagebrush ecosystem following wildfire.

USGS scientists examined landscape factors that influenced recruitment and establishment of sagebrush in the first year following the 2015 Soda Fire to better understand and improve success of post-fire rehabilitation. Using a large set of measurements collected in seeded and unseeded areas, they investigated the importance of topographic, soil, and plant community variables for sagebrush occupancy. Sagebrush established in 50 percent of plots where it was seeded, a greater than 12-fold establishment frequency than in unseeded areas. Sagebrush occupancy was greater at higher elevations, with lower solar heat load, in fertile soil ”islands,” and was optimal at 40 percent bunchgrass cover. Sagebrush occupancy decreased where exotic-annual grasses were present. This is the first comprehensive study of within-burn variability in perennial plant recovery using many sampling points across gradients to reveal the ways in which sagebrush responds to these factors. These interactive relationships can be mapped to aid management decisions, explaining past sagebrush seeding outcomes and improving future seeding success.

Germino, M.J., Barnard, D.M., Davidson, B.E., Arkle, R.S., Pilliod, D.S., Fisk, M.R., Applestein, C.V., 2018, Thresholds and hotspots for shrub restoration following a heterogeneous megafire: Landscape Ecology,

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