Altered climate, including weather extremes, can affect vegetative recovery after disturbances. USGS researchers compared models to determine how annual and perennial grass cover and sagebrush density responded to wildfire and weather.
Models were trained using a 30-yr vegetation monitoring dataset from burned and unburned areas of the Orchard Training Area (OCTC) in Southern Idaho, and assessed model transferability to the area burned by the Soda wildfire. Scientists observed mostly positive relationships between post-fire precipitation and abundance of all plant functional groups, including sagebrush density and perennial grass cover, yet post-fire temperature effects on plants were mixed. Including weather variables increased transferability of models for predicting perennial and annual grass cover from the OCTC to the Soda wildfire area but did not affect transferability of post-fire sagebrush density forecasts. Although model transferability may be improved by including weather variables when predicting post-fire vegetation recovery, predictions based on coarse-scale weather data may be surprisingly unaffected by the time frames during which weather variation is considered.
Germino, M.J., Applestein, C.V., Caughlin, T., 2021, Weather affects post-fire recovery of sagebrush-steppe communities and model transferability among sites: Ecosphere, v. 12, no. 4, e03446, https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.3446.