- Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
- Education and Training: extension, workshop, youth education
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
More frequent mega-wildfires reshaping Great Basin plant communities, endangering native perennial grasses that are a key source of forage for livestock. Predicted increase in the frequency of drought and ongoing invasion by cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) will exacerbate the impact of wildfires in the Great Basin. Post-fire seeding has become a common practice to restore degraded lands to native perennial grasslands, but whether restored communities will persist in the future is unknown. Our research aims to understand how forward-looking post-fire seeding can promote resilient rangelands in the Great Basin, which can safeguard the economic viability of ranching and the quality of life of ranchers from catastrophic wildfires. We assess the capacity of current seeding practices and potential seed source modification to withstand future drought and invasion. First, we survey vegetation in the boundaries of a large fire to determine the effects of post-fire seeding and landscape dispersal on the species and genetic diversity of restored communities. Second, we use a common garden approach to understand how seed provenance and species traits alter the response of native grass populations to cheatgrass and drought. Our research will provide practical recommendations on where and what to plant in future post-fire restoration. We will disseminate results to ranchers and public land managers in Oregon and Idaho via field workshop, oral presentations, and newsletter articles. We expect increase in stakeholders’ knowledge about the effects of current post-fire seeding practices on plant diversity and the selective seed sourcing strategy to adapt to future drought and cheatgrass invasion.
Project objectives from proposal:
Research objective 1: Assess the effects of current post-fire seeding practice on local plant species and genetic diversity in burned areas.
Research objective 2: Evaluate where on the landscape to prioritize post-fire seeding for native vegetation recovery in burned areas.
Research objective 3: Identify native grass seed provenance that improves the drought tolerance of restored sites.
Research objective 4: Understand the relationship between the drought tolerance and cheatgrass resistance traits of native grasses.
Education objective 1: Ranchers and land managers in the Northern Great Basin learn how current post-fire seeding practices affect the resilience of rangelands and how selective seed sourcing can aid in the adaptation to future drought and cheatgrass invasion.
Education objective 2: College and high school students in Oregon will learn about the importance of post-fire rangeland restoration.
Education objective 3: Range and restoration professionals will learn how the concept of pre-emptive restoration can be applied in post-fire seeding of arid rangelands.