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Postwildfire seeding to restore native vegetation and limit exotic annuals: an evaluation in juniper‐dominated sagebrush steppe

Davies, Kirk W., Bates, Jon D., Boyd, Chad S.
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 120-127
Artemisia tridentata, Juniperus occidentalis, annuals, ecosystem services, forbs, grasses, indigenous species, introduced plants, perennials, sowing, steppes, vegetation cover, wildfires, Western United States
Reestablishment of perennial vegetation is often needed after wildfires to limit exotic species and restore ecosystem services. However, there is a growing body of evidence that questions if seeding after wildfires increases perennial vegetation and reduces exotic plants. The concern that seeding may not meet restoration goals is even more prevalent when native perennial vegetation is seeded after fire. We evaluated vegetation cover and density responses to broadcast seeding native perennial grasses and mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. spp. vaseyana [Rydb.] Beetle) after wildfires in the western United States in six juniper (Juniperus occidentalis ssp. occidentalis Hook)‐dominated mountain big sagebrush communities for 3 years postfire. Seeding native perennial species compared to not seeding increased perennial grass and sagebrush cover and density. Perennial grass cover was 4.3 times greater in seeded compared to nonseeded areas. Sagebrush cover averaged 24 and less than 0.1% in seeded and nonseeded areas at the conclusion of the study, respectively. Seeding perennial species reduced exotic annual grass and annual forb cover and density. Exotic annual grass cover was 8.6 times greater in nonseeded compared to seeded areas 3 years postfire. Exotic annual grass cover increased over time in nonseeded areas but decreased in seeded areas by the third‐year postfire. Seeded areas were perennial‐dominated and nonseeded areas were annual‐dominated at the end of the study. Establishing perennial vegetation may be critical after wildfires in juniper‐dominated sagebrush steppe to prevent the development of annual‐dominated communities. Postwildfire seeding increased perennial vegetation and reduced exotic plants and justifies its use.