In the sagebrush steppe, land managers use fuel reduction treatments to minimize large fire risk. Although biocrusts are associated with reduced cover of fire-promoting, invasive grasses, the impact of fuel reduction treatments on biocrusts is poorly understood.
USGS and Utah State University researchers used data from a long-term experiment, the Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP), to examine fuel reduction treatments on biocrusts. They found that herbicides imazapic and tebuthiuron had neutral to positive effects on both lichen and moss cover, but that mowing and prescribed fire had negative effects on moss cover, increasing bare soil. Bare soil is associated with increased invasion by annual invasive grasses that are responsible for increasing fire risk. These findings may inform appropriate fuel reduction treatments when maintaining biocrust cover is a management goal.
Condon, L.A., Gray, M.L., 2019, Not all fuel reduction treatments degrade biocrusts- Herbicides show mostly neutral to positive effects on cover of biocrusts: Land Degradation and Development, https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.3516