Invasive grass species are a threat to many ecosystems around the world and in sagebrush habitats of the western United States, presence of non-native grasses may give rise to fire cycles that lead to a loss of sagebrush and a dominance of invasive cheatgrass.
A diverse array of vegetation management tools such as prescribed fire and mechanical treatments are used to reduce woody fuels, but the factors affecting the relative success of each treatment and their consequences for cheatgrass are not well understood. Using data from 17 long-term sites, USGS and their federal and university collaborators examined the outcome of fuel control treatments six years after applications. They evaluated cheatgrass responses in relation to biotic and abiotic factors such as climate, soil type, and existing vegetation. Results suggest that sites with warmer drier climates may be less resistant to cheatgrass invasion particularly after prescribed fire treatment, and management actions that enhance native herbs are more likely to promote sagebrush steppe resilience.
Roundy, B.A., Chambers, J.C., Pyke, D.A., Miller, R., Tausch, R.J., Schupp, E.W., Rau, B.M., Gruell, T., 2018, Resilience and resistance in sagebrush ecosystems are associated with seasonal soil temperature and water availability: Ecosphere, v. 9, no. 9, p. e02417, https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2417