Recovery of big sagebrush populations after fire is inhibited by the loss of adult plants and the limited ability of new seedlings to survive or reproduce.
Recovery of big sagebrush populations after fire is inhibited by the loss of adult plants and the limited ability of new seedlings to survive or reproduce — a limitation with negative population consequences that last for years to decades after post-fire seeding restoration efforts, according to a recently published study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The recovery of big sagebrush habitat is one of the largest, if not the largest, ecosystem restoration challenges in the U.S. right now. Hundreds of thousands of acres burn each year, and millions of dollars are invested in trying to restore big sagebrush in these areas,” said USGS scientist and lead author of the study, Robert Shriver. “This study could lead to new and more cost-effective strategies for land managers trying to restore big sagebrush populations after fire.”
Big sagebrush is one of the most iconic plants of the American West, and more than 300 species of conservation concern, like the sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit, rely on big sagebrush ecosystems. Wildlife like mule deer, elk, pronghorn, sage sparrows and sagebrush voles also use sagebrush for food and habitat.
Although big sagebrush is found throughout the Intermountain West — from Montana south to Arizona — human activity, nonnative plant species invasions and wildfire have resulted in widespread loss of big sagebrush. To complicate matters, active attempts to restore big sagebrush after fires have had mixed results, even at locations that previously supported healthy populations.
Continue reading at USGS.
Image via USGS.