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Project ID: 15-1-07-2

Year: 2015

Date Started: 10/01/2015

Ending Date:  09/30/2018

Title: Long-term SUCCESS: SUCCession and Ecosystem dynamics in the Sagebrush Steppe following wildfires

Project Proposal Abstract: This project will examine the effect of historic wildfires on succession and ecosystem dynamics in sagebrush steppe habitats of western North America. Sagebrush steppe ecosystems are among the most imperiled in the western United States. Wildfires and invasion by non-native annual grasses have created a vicious cycle of increased fire frequency and extent and further invasion. However, most research has been based on a limited range of conditions and datasets covering the period soon after fire. Our previous work has shown that long-term monitoring is necessary to distinguish temporary changes in species composition from permanent changes in ecosystem state. Our focus is the mid-Columbia basin in Washington state, an area supporting several endangered species and ecosystems. We will leverage new field data collection by combining data collected in 2017 with extensive historical vegetation data (1989-2010) and extant plot-level fire histories, restoration histories, details of environmental conditions (soils, climate/weather). Re-measurements will occur on about 200 permanent plots distributed across public lands, on private ranchland, and at the rural-urban interface. The wide range of environmental contexts that we sample will ensure that the resulting models are widely applicable. This proposal is directly relevant to the JFSP Task 15-1-07 research questions: 1) How do successional patterns vary temporally and spatially?; 2) How has climate change affected successional patterns?; and 3) How have fires affected achievement of ecosystem restoration objectives? We will focus on comparisons between plots that have not burned in 30+ years with plots that did not burn or that burned multiple times in that time. By building upon long-term data sets spanning a diverse range of locations and disturbance histories, we will be able to analyze patterns of post-fire vegetation succession. We will compare the successional trajectories of burned and unburned plots, including the effects of repeated fires, the extent to which abiotic landscape conditions interact with fire to alter successional trajectories, the sensitivity of successional trajectories to weather, and the effectiveness of restoration treatments. To address the JFSP research questions, this project has three objectives: Objective A. Quantify and model controls on post-fire vegetation composition. We will examine how plot characteristics and disturbance history drive vegetation dynamics, focusing on the entire plant community, key functional groups, and key species. We will use Principal Response Curves, partial Redundancy Analysis, and linear mixed models to address this topic. Objective B. Characterize vegetation dynamics. We will compare directions and rates of compositional change among sites with different fire histories. We will use Multivariate Control Charts to quantify these changes, and calculate indices of vegetation dynamics that will be related to fire history and other factors. Objective C. Evaluate and refine quantitative state and transition models. We proposed a qualitative model that will be evaluated and refined using re-measurement data. Different abiotic conditions will likely be dealt with in separate models, while fire history and restoration history will be incorporated into the models themselves. These models will allow managers to track and forecast ecosystem dynamics under various scenarios.

Principal Investigator: Jonathan D. Bakker

Agency/Organization: University of Washington

Branch or Dept: School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Lynette F. Arias

University of Washington

Office of Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Lynette F. Arias

University of Washington

Office of Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Gwilym M. Davies

Ohio State University

College of Food, Agriculture & Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator

Claire E. Wainwright

University of Washington

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences


Sally L. Morgan

University of Washington

School of Forest Resources

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Great Basin









Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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