The invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) continues to spread across the Great Basin, fuel wildfires, and dominate large expanses that were once sagebrush shrublands. The shifts have been so dramatic that much of the research in rangeland management has focused upon the degradation brought by these changes. Monitoring of short-term recovery occurs in these systems, but considerably less is known about the long-term recovery of native plant communities after fire. Research using historical data has shown that, in some instances, rangelands can transition out of an annual dominated state into a native perennial state over time, sometimes without intervention. Using repeated measures in time, we examined the natural successional status of two shrubland sites in the Great Basin near Reno, NV. The plots, established by Dwight Billings in 1941, burned completely in 1947 (66 years ago). He collected density data on herbaceous species 1 year and 41 years after the fire. At both sampling intervals, B. tectorum and other annual-invasive species dominated the sites. Our re-sampling 25 years later found B. tectorum no longer maintained dominance on the north-facing site, and native grasses were common. The south-facing site still contained a high density of cheatgrass, but it was less abundant than it was in previous years.Â Our results suggest that native plant communities can re-establish after fire and cheatgrass dominance, especially on north-facing slopes, though it may take up to ~70 years. This study highlights the importance of repeated and long-term measurements for the developing restoration plans and state-and-transition models, as community trajectories may not be apparent from short-term monitoring.
Oral presentation and poster titles, abstracts, and authors from the Society for Range Management (SRM) Annual Meetings and Tradeshows, from 2013 forward.