The Nebraska Sandhills, one of the largest contiguous grassland ecoregions remaining in North America, is characterized by sandy textured soils stabilized by fine root biomass from predominately warm-season grasses. Concern over the destabilization of the sand dunes have led to management approaches that seek to prevent disturbances, such as fire, that remove vegetation and expose bare ground. In 2012, extreme drought conditions (38% below the average for the growing season) coincided with one of the most extreme wildfire events observed in the area in recent decades. Considering that bison were not removed from the area and the drought continued for an additional six months following the wildfire, we hypothesized that the occurrence of wildfire and herbivory during this drought would result in the loss of stability in Sandhills grassland and a lack of recovery of grassland vegetation. Following the wildfire, we tracked the response of grassland productivity and structure in burned areas compared to adjacent areas not burned. Contrary to the local concerns shaping our hypothesis, grassland vegetation recovered rapidly following this wildfire and drought event. These findings demonstrate that Sandhills grasslands are considerably more resilient than currently believed.
Oral presentation and poster titles, abstracts, and authors from the Society for Range Management (SRM) Annual Meetings and Tradeshows, from 2013 forward.