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Sagebrush steppe recovery after fire varies by development phase of Juniperus occidentalis woodland

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Woodland ecosystems of the world have been changed by land use demands, altered fire regimes, invasive species and climate change. Reduced fire frequency is recognized as a main causative agent for Pinus-Juniperus L. (pinon-juniper) expansion in North American woodlands. Pinon-juniper control measures, including prescribed fire, are increasingly employed to restore sagebrush steppe communities. We compared vegetation recovery following prescribed fire on Phase 2 (mid-succession) and Phase 3 (late-succession) Juniperus occidentalis Hook. (western juniper) woodlands in Oregon. The herbaceous layer on Phase 2 sites was comprised of native perennial and annual vegetation before and after fire. On Phase 3 sites the herbaceous layer shifted from native species to dominance by invasive Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass). After fire, shrubs on Phase 2 sites were comprised of sprouting species and Ceanothus velutinus Dougl. (snowbrush). On Phase 3 woodland sites the shrub layer was dominated by C. velutinus. The results suggest that Phase 2 sites have a greater likelihood of recovery to native vegetation after fire and indicate that sites transitioning from Phase 2 to Phase 3 woodland cross a recovery threshold where there is a greater potential for invasive weeds, rather than native vegetation, to dominate after fire.
Jonathan D. Bates , Robert N. Sharp , Kirk W. Davies
Artemisia , Bromus tectorum , Ceanothus velutinus , Juniperus occidentalis , climate change , control methods , ecological invasion , ecosystems , fire regime , indigenous species , invasive species , land use , pinyon-juniper , prescribed burning , shrubs , weeds , wildfires , woodlands , Oregon
Internation Journal of Wildland Fire 2013 9 10
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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