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In the western U.S., big sagebrush ecosystems provide habitat for about 350 species of conservation concern, but are sensitive to disturbance and are in decline. Big sagebrush ecosystems have low and variable precipitation, which makes restoration a challenge.
USGS scientists analyzed field data on Artemisia tridentata, or big sagebrush, restoration at 771 plots in 177 wildfire sites across its western range, and used ecohydrological modeling to identify factors that led to its establishment. Big sagebrush occurrence is most strongly associated with relatively cool temperatures and wet soils in the first spring after seeding. Adaptive management strategies that target seeding during cool, wet years or mitigate effects of variability through repeated seeding may improve the likelihood of successful restoration in dryland ecosystems. Given consistent projections of increasing temperatures, declining snowpack, and increasing weather variability throughout mid‐latitude drylands, weather‐centric adaptive management approaches to restoration will be increasingly important for dryland restoration success.
Shriver, R.K., Andrews, C.M., Pilliod, D.S., Arkle, R.S., Welty, J.L., Germino, M.J., Duniway, M.C., Pyke, D.A., and Bradford, J.B., 2018, Adapting management to a changing world: warm temperatures, dry soil, and inter-annual variability limit restoration success of a dominant woody shrub in temperate drylands: Global Change Biology, https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14374.