Cheatgrass, a non-native annual grass, dominates millions of hectares in semiarid ecosystems of the Intermountain West (USA). Post-fire invasions can reduce native species diversity and alter ecological processes. To curb cheatgrass invasion, land managers often seed recently burned areas with perennial competitor species. We sampled vegetation within burned (19 years post-fire) and nearby unburned (representing pre-fire) pionjuniper (Pinus edulisJuniperus osteosperma) woodland and sagebrush (Artemisia sp.) in western Colorado to analyze variables that might explain cheatgrass cover after fire. A multiple regression model suggests higher cheatgrass cover after fire with: (1) sagebrush v. pionjuniper; (2) higher pre-fire cover of annual forbs; (3) increased time since fire; (4) lower pre-fire cover of biological soil crust; and (5) lower precipitation the year before fire. Time since fire, which coincided with higher precipitation, accounts for most of the variability in cheatgrass cover. No significant difference was found in mean cheatgrass cover between seeded and unseeded plots over time. However, negative relationships with pre-fire biological soil crust cover and native species richness suggest livestock-degraded areas are more susceptible to post-fire invasion. Proactive strategies for combating cheatgrass should include finding effective native competitors and restoring livestock-degraded areas. ?? 2009 IAWF.
Additional publication details
Environmental and climatic variables as potential drivers of post-fire cover of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in seeded and unseeded semiarid ecosystems