Understanding the factors that influence vegetation responses to disturbance is important because vegetation is the foundation of food resources, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem properties and processes.
Researchers studied vegetation cover data from Landsat images and field surveys from 1979 to 2016 to investigate how historical vegetation composition influences contemporary responses of vegetation to fire in sagebrush ecosystems in the Great Basin. They found that areas burned by fire since the 1980s experienced greater changes in cover and had higher annual herbaceous cover than unburned areas, both historically and contemporarily. Burned areas historically occupied by sagebrush-dominated plant communities may have been invaded by exotic annuals prior to burning, possibly because of prior land uses, and after burning, have now transitioned to a persistent herbaceous-dominated state. This type of state transition has important consequences for forage quality, wildlife habitat, soil nutrients, and future disturbances, such as drought and wildfire.
Barker, B.S., Pilliod, D.S., Rigge, M., Homer, C.G., 2019, Pre-fire vegetation drives post-fire outcomes in sagebrush ecosystems- evidence from field and remote sensing data: Ecosphere, https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2929