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Non-native plant invasion after fire in western USA varies by functional type and with climate

February 2, 2024

Invasions by non-native plant species after fire can negatively affect important ecosystem services and lead to invasion-fire cycles that further degrade ecosystems. The relationship between fire and plant invasion is complex, and the risk of invasion varies greatly between functional types and across geographic scales. Here, we examined patterns and predictors of non-native plant invasion following fire across the western United States. We specifically analyzed how the abundance of non-native plants after fire was related to fire characteristics and environmental conditions, such as climate, soil, and topography, in 26,729 vegetation plots from government networks and individual studies. Non-native plant cover was higher in plots measured after wildfires compared to prescribed burns or unburned plots. The post-fire cover of non-native species varied by plant functional type, and only the cover of short-lived (i.e., annual and biennial) forbs and short-lived C3 grasses was significantly higher in burned plots compared to unburned plots. Cool-season short-lived grasses composed most of the non-native post-fire vegetation, with cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) being the most recorded species in the dataset. Climate variables were the most influential predictors of the cover of non-native short-lived grasses and forbs after fires, with invasion being more common in areas with drier summers and a higher proportion of yearly precipitation falling in October through March. Models using future projected climate for mid (2041–2070) and end (2071–2100) of century showed a potential for increasing post-fire invasion risk at higher elevations and latitudes. These findings highlight priorities for mitigation, monitoring, and restoration efforts to reduce post-fire plant invasion risk across the western United States.

Publication Year 2024
Title Non-native plant invasion after fire in western USA varies by functional type and with climate
DOI 10.1007/s10530-023-03235-9
Authors Janet S. Prevéy, Catherine S. Jarnevich, Ian Pearse, Seth M. Munson, Jens T. Stevens, Kevin Barrett, Jonathon D. Coop, Michelle Day, David Firmage, Paula J. Fornwalt, Katharine Haynes, James B. Johnston, Becky Kerns, Meg A. Krawchuk, Becky Miller, Ty Nietupski, Jacquilyn Roque, Judith Diane Springer, Camille S. Stevens-Rumann, Micheal T. Stoddard, Claire Tortorelli
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Invasions
Index ID 70252754
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center