Using native annual plants to restore post-fire habitats in western North America

TitleUsing native annual plants to restore post-fire habitats in western North America
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHerron, CM, Jonas, JL, Meiman, PJ, Paschke, MW
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
VolumeOn-line early
Date Published05/2013
KeywordsBromus tectorum, cheatgrass, fire and rangelands, restoration and hazardous fuel reduction, sagebrush, technical reports and journal articles

Increasing fire frequencies and uncharacteristic severe fires have created a need for improved restoration methods across rangelands in western North America. Traditional restoration seed mixtures of native perennial mid- to late-seral plant species may not be suitable for intensely burned sites that have been returned to an early-seral condition. Under such conditions, native annual plant species are likely to be more successful at becoming established and competing with exotic annual plant species, such as Bromus tectorum L., for resources. We used a field study in Colorado and Idaho, USA, to test the hypothesis that native annual plant species are better suited to post-fire restoration efforts compared with perennial plant species that are commonly used in traditional seed mixtures. Replicated test plots at three post-fire sites were assigned one of four treatments: (1) native annual seed mixture, (2) standard perennial seed mixture, (3) combination of annual and perennial and (4) an unseeded control. Seeding native annuals with perennials resulted in a slight reduction in exotic plant cover, suggesting that it is potentially beneficial to include native annual plant species in restoration seed mixtures.