Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Improving restoration success through microsite selection: an example with planting sagebrush seedlings after wildfire.

Abstract

Post-fire restoration of foundation plant species, particularly non-sprouting shrubs, is critically needed in arid and semi-arid rangeland, but is hampered by low success. Expensive and labor-intensive methods, including planting seedlings, can improve restoration success. Prioritizing where these more intensive methods are applied may improve restoration efficiency. Shrubs in arid and semi-arid environments can create resource islands under their canopies that may remain after fire. Seedlings planted post-fire in former canopy and between canopies (interspace) may have different survival and growth. We compared planting Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) seedlings post-fire in former sagebrush canopy and interspace microsites at five locations. Four growing seasons after planting, seedling survival was 46 and 7% in canopy and interspace microsites, respectively. Sagebrush cover was 5.8 times greater in canopy compared to interspace microsites. Sagebrush survival and cover were likely greater because of less competition from herbaceous vegetation as well as benefiting from resource island effects in canopy microsites. Initially, post-fire abundance of exotic annual grasses was less in canopy microsites, but by the third year post-fire it was substantially greater in canopy microsites, indicating that resource availability to seedlings was greater, at least initially, in canopy microsites. These results suggest microsites with greater likelihood of success should be identified and then utilized to improve restoration success and efficiency. This is important as the need for restoration greatly exceeds resources available for restoration.