Fire risk in revegetated bunchgrass communities Infested with Bromus tectorum

Rangeland Ecology and Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

In rangeland ecosystems, invasive annual grass replacement of native perennials is associated with higher fire risk. Large bunchgrasses are often seeded to reduce cover of annuals such as Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass), but there is limited information about how revegetation reduces fire risk over the long-term. For this research note, we conducted a pilot study to assess how community composition influences fire risk at 3 sites in Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, USA that were revegetated with large bunchgrasses 8 to 18 years prior to the study. At each revegetated site, five replicates with 10 plots each (plot size 10 × 10 m) were established. Fire risk was determined as the probability that a plot would completely burn following ignition at a randomly located point in each plot (i.e., if 8 of 10 plots burned fire risk was 80%). Pre-ignition, cover of bunchgrasses, cheatgrass, forbs, and surface cover characteristics were determined for each plot. Bunchgrasses successfully established to varying degrees among sites, but fire risk was still relatively high (around 73%) and did not significantly differ among sites cover. All sites had similar surface cover characteristics such as high total fuels cover (>80% at all sites) and low unvegetated gap cover (soil and soil cryptogams, <17%). Our pilot study suggests that even though revegetation may increase bunchgrass and decrease cheatgrass, fire risk remains high likely due to other surface cover characteristics. Future studies should aim to have larger variation in cover, grazing intensity, and weather conditions.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Fire risk in revegetated bunchgrass communities Infested with Bromus tectorum
Series title Rangeland Ecology and Management
DOI 10.1016/j.rama.2018.11.008
Volume 72
Issue 3
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 3 p.
First page 539
Last page 541
Country United States
State Washington
County Grant County