Thresholds and hotspots for shrub restoration following a heterogeneous megafire

Landscape Ecology
By: , and 




Reestablishing foundational plant species through aerial seeding is an essential yet challenging step for restoring the vast semiarid landscapes impacted by plant invasions and wildfire-regime shifts. A key component of the challenge stems from landscape variability and its effects on plant recovery.


We assessed landscape correlates, thresholds, and tipping points for sagebrush presence from fine-scale sampling across a large, heterogeneous area burned the previous year, where we were able to quantify soil surface features that are typically occluded yet can strongly affect recovery patterns.


Hypothesis testing and binary-decision trees were used to evaluate factors affecting initial sagebrush establishment, using 2171 field plots (totaling ~ 2,000,000 m2 sampled) over a 113,000-ha region.


Sagebrush established in 50% of plots where it was seeded, a > 12-fold greater establishment frequency than in unseeded areas. Sagebrush establishment was enhanced in threshold-like ways by elevation (> 1200 m ASL), topographic features that alter heatload and soil water, and by soil-surface features such as “fertile islands” that bore the imprint of pre-fire sagebrush. Sagebrush occupancy had a negative, linear relationship with exotic-annual grass cover and parabolic relationship with perennial bunchgrasses (optimal at 40% cover).


Our approach revealed interactive, ecological relationships such as novel soil-surface effects on first year establishment of sagebrush across the burned landscape, and identified “hot spots” for recovery. The approach could be expanded across sites and years to provide the information needed to explain past seeding successes or failures, and in designing treatments at the landscape scale.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Thresholds and hotspots for shrub restoration following a heterogeneous megafire
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-018-0662-8
Volume 33
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 18 p.
First page 1177
Last page 1194
Country United States
State Idaho
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details