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Project ID: 17-1-03-10

Year: 2017

Date Started: 06/01/2017

Ending Date:  09/01/2020

Title: Post-fire recovery of Great Basin sagebrush habitat using seed coating technology and herbicides to overcome abiotic and biotic limitations to native plant establishment

Project Proposal Abstract: Sagebrush with its critical sage grouse habitat is at a tipping point in which wildfires that were small and infrequent are increasing in frequency, size and severity. Wildfire is now the largest driver of ecosystem change accounting for more than 60% of all landscape transformations in the Great Basin. Losses of native woody shrubs, coupled with the spread of invasive grasses are changing fuel characteristics of post-fire landscapes that promote plant invasions and recurrent fires. Expansion of invasive annual grasses and wildfire decrease plant community diversity and resilience, and degrade habitat conditions of sage grouse and other wildlife species. Management interventions are required to break this invasive grass-fire cycle and re-establish properly function sagebrush communities that provide critical wildlife habitat and ecosystem services. Due to the large scale of wildfires across Great Basin landscapes, seed applications are the most viable strategy for re-establishing native vegetation following disturbance. Each year millions of dollars are spent purchasing and placing native seeds in desert rangelands following wildfire to stabilize and restore sagebrush habitat. Unfortunately seed applications often fail to meet their ecological objectives particularly in lowland sagebrush communities. To improve rangeland seeding success in sagebrush habitat, we must identify the major limitations to native seed germination and seedling establishment and develop technologies and tools that overcome them. There is evidence that rodents remove as much as 80% of the seeds we purchase and place in Great Basin landscapes to stabilize and restore sagebrush habitat. Native seeds that escape predation by rodents experience up to 70% pre-emergent mortality from frost damage in the late fall. Seeds that survive rodent predation and late fall frost, and emerge the following spring struggle to survive due to competition with invasive grasses. This project leverages seed coating technologies and tools being developed by professors at Brigham Young University to mitigate the three major limitations to native plant establishment in sagebrush habitat: rodent seed predation, late fall frost mortality and competition with invasive grasses. We propose developing and field testing seed coatings that simultaneously protect native seeds from rodent seed predation (Capsaicin), frost mortality in the late fall by delaying seed germination (Abscisic Acid:ABA) until early spring, and neutralizing herbicides (activated carbon) to protect native seeds in the presence of herbicides applied to kill invasive grasses. We already have promising data from lab trials, and funding for this project would support continued development of seed coating applications and full-scale field trials over a 3 year period in burned, and cheatgrass invaded sagebrush habitat. Our goal is to develop coated seeds that drastically increase the establishment success of native plants to stabilize and restore lowland sagebrush habitat. We anticipate that this project will also significantly reduce costs of post-fire restoration by requiring much less seed by protecting it from losses due to rodent predation, late fall frost events, and competition from invasive grasses.

Principal Investigator: Sam B. St. Clair

Agency/Organization: Brigham Young University

Branch or Dept: Department of Plant & Wildlife Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Gene R. Larson

Brigham Young University

Office of Research and Creative Activities

Budget Contact

Gene R. Larson

Brigham Young University

Office of Research and Creative Activities

Co-Principal Investigator

Richard A. Gill

Brigham Young University

Department of Biology

Co-Principal Investigator

Matthew D. Madsen

Brigham Young University

Department of Plant & Wildlife Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Dean Pearson

Forest Service

RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

Bruce A. Roundy

Brigham Young University

Department of Plant & Wildlife Sciences


Daniel D. Summers


Division of Wildlife Resources

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Great Basin







Interior West


Project Deliverables

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

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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