The Great Basin of the western United States represents one of the last large expanses of wildlands in the nation. This ecoregion is home to a variety of native endemic species, and supports some of the oldest organisms alive today. Sagebrush shrub-steppe is home to the Greater Sage-Grouse, whichÂ is under consideration for federal protection.Â However,Â this desert biome is currently facing significant ecological change. Of particular concern is the spread of the invasive speciesÂ Bromus tectorum,Â or cheatgrass, which has the ability to displace ecologically crucial native plants such as sagebrush. Extreme precipitation events, coupled with increases in frequency, duration, and magnitude of fire events, may lead to significant increases of cheatgrass,Â triggering both ecological and economic impacts in the region over time. This project provided a set of analytical tools and methods for researchers and land managers to quantify and mitigate these changes in the Great Basin ecoregion. The northern section of the Great Basin, accounting for 30% of the ecoregion, was analyzed using remotely-sensed imagery, modeled geospatial data, and in-situ data. This project created a set of maps and values correlating annual cheatgrass spread to fire activity. Correlations were also performed with historical precipitation, temperature, and soil water storage provided by the Basin Characterization Model (BCM). These correlation maps and results provide a low-cost means for land managers to assess landscape condition, and a repeatable methodology for monitoring landscape changes and consider more focused conservation efforts.
Rangeland Ecology & Management
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