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Project ID: 17-1-04-4

Year: 2017

Date Started: 10/01/2017

Ending Date:  12/31/2020

Title: Fire effects on herbaceous regeneration across an invasion gradient in grasslands and shrublands

Project Proposal Abstract: Overview Post-fire resiliency of plant communities in northern mixed-grass prairie and eastern sagebrush steppe depends largely on plant regeneration from aboveground and belowground buds. Canopy and stem regeneration occurs more quickly via the bud bank than via seedling recruitment. To better predict plant community responses to fire, we need an enhanced understanding of the immediate and long-term bud responses of key forb, grass, and shrub species to fire. This knowledge will inform the use of prescribed fire as a management tool and improve the fire effects evaluation after wildfires in both grassland and sagebrush ecosystems. 1. Problem Statement Fire effects on the regeneration potential (i.e. buds and meristems) of the native herbaceous plant community in northern mixed-grass prairie and eastern sagebrush steppe are poorly understood but critical for appropriate management and the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function. 2. Objective Our primary objectives are to: 1) determine the regeneration potential of important/desirable forbs and grasses from belowground buds following fire, 2) determine how pre-fire community composition affects post-fire regeneration, especially focusing on the effect of exotic annual brome abundance, 3) investigate the effect of fuel loading on the regeneration resiliency of grasslands and shrublands, and 4) determine the response of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) to low intensity fire. 3. Task Statement Relevancy Examination of the bud and meristem response of multiple herbaceous species to fire directly addresses the core request of task 4. We propose to investigate bud responses across a range of fuel loadings that produce fire intensity and severity levels representative of these fuel types. Fire effects will be monitored on the target species immediately post-fire and after several months of recovery. The task also asks researchers to consider the regeneration response under different environmental conditions and across different geographic areas. We propose to determine whether post-fire environmental conditions such as drought can negatively impact the ability of herbaceous species to resprout. We will examine bud responses in species occurring across a large geographic region including sagebrush shrublands and northern mixed-grass prairie. 4. Benefits Our combined laboratory and field approach will provide basic and applied understanding of plant responses to fire that can be used to make management decisions regarding the role of prescribed fire in maintaining adequate forage for livestock and appropriate habitat for Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) while also preventing invasion by non-native plant species. This research will provide needed information on the post-fire regenerative ability of key forb species and their genera that are important for wildlife, especially pollinators and the Greater Sage-grouse. We will determine the feasibility of maintaining big sagebrush stands via meristem regeneration after low intensity fire. We will also deliver needed results on how annual brome invasion impacts the resiliency and regeneration of grasslands and shrublands in the northern Great Plains before brome invasion reaches levels comparable to those of the intermountain west. Regeneration sensitivity of multiple species to a range of fuel loadings is well-suited for incorporation into existing fire effects models, such as FOFEM (First Order Fire Effects Model), which use fuel loadings to predict fire effects (e.g. soil heating).

Principal Investigator: Jacqueline P. Ott

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: RMRS-Forest & Grassland Research Lab

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Cindy D. Gordon

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Budget Contact

Cindy D. Gordon

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Troy W. Ocheltree

Colorado State University

Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Co-Principal Investigator

Lauren M Porensky

ARS-Agricultural Research Service

Rangeland Resources Research Unit

Co-Principal Investigator

James J. Reardon

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

John D. Scasta

University of Wyoming

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Amy J. Symstad

USGS-Geological Survey

NPWRC-Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Great Plains

Southern Rockies






Interior West








Thunder Basin National Grassland




Private lands





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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