In August 2007, the Milepost 17 and Wautoma fires burned a combined total of 77,349 acres (31,302 hectares) of the Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Land Ecology Reserve (ALE), part of the Hanford Reach National Monument administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Mid-Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. In 2009, the USFWS implemented a series of seeding and herbicide treatments to mitigate potential negative consequences of these fires, including mortality of native vegetation, invasion of Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), and soil erosion. Treatments included combinations of seeding (drill and aerial), herbicides, and one of six different mixtures of species. Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis (Wyoming big sagebrush) also was planted by hand in a small area in the southern end of the fire perimeter. Due to differences in plant communities prior to the fire and the multiple treatments applied, treatments were grouped into five treatment associations including mid-elevation aerial seedings, low-elevation aerial seedings, low-elevation drill seedings, high-elevation drill seeding, and no seeding treatments. Data collected at the mid-elevation aerial seedings indicate that the seeding did not appear to increase the density of seedlings compared to the non-seeded area in 2010. At the low-elevation aerial seedings, there were significantly more seedlings at seeded areas as compared to non-seeded areas. Low densities of existing perennial plants probably fostered a low-competition environment enabling seeds to germinate and emerge in 2010 during adequate moisture. Low-elevation drill seedings resulted in significant emergence of seeded grasses in 2009 and 2010 and forbs in 2010. This was likely due to adequate precipitation and that the drill seeding assured soil-to-seed contact. At the high-elevation drill seeding, which was implemented in 2009, there were a high number of seedlings in 2010. Transplanting of A. tridentata following the fires resulted in variable survival rates that warrant further testing; however, transplants located closer to washes tended to have the highest survival rates. Overall, the low-elevation aerial and drill seedings, and the high-elevation drill seedings resulted in significant numbers of seedlings. Further research is needed on methods that provide land managers with critical information about whether or not to seed post-fire areas including status of pre-fire vegetation and estimates of plant mortality due to fire.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Effectiveness of post-fire seeding at the Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Land Ecology Reserve, Washington