Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 6, 2006
Publication Date: March 5, 2009
Citation: Young, J.A., Clements, D.D. 2009. Cheatgrass: Fire and Forage on the Range. Reno: University Nevada Press. 347 p. Interpretive Summary: This 500 plus page manuscript explores the all encompassing consequences of the exotic, invasive annual cheatgrass on the environment of western North America. It ranges from an historical review of the introduction and spread of cheatgrass to projections of the future of annual grasslands dominated by this weed. Cheatgrass is the most important and abundant herbaceous forage species on Great Basin rangelands. Unfortunately, it provides a fine textured, early maturing abundance of biomass that increases the chance of ignition, rate of spread and extends the season of wildfires on the range. This is the first volume where the pertinent literature on cheatgrass has been assembled and evaluated.
Technical Abstract: Bromus tectorum L. is an annual grass native to Central Asia. It was accidentally introduced to North America in the 19th century. About 1900 it began to spread in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)/bunchgrass ranges in the Intermountain Area. In 1965 the authors estimated that 0.01% of the 19 million acres of former big sagebrush/bunchgrass in Nevada had been converted to annual grass dominance through the mechanism of repeated burning in wildfires. In 1990 the authors estimated that 25% of the native big sagebrush had been converted to annual grasslands. Currently, the estimated conversion is 40%. In 1999, 1.8 million acres of formerly big sagebrush/ bunchgrass and salt desert rangelands burned in a 10 day period. Bromus tectorum can be suppressed by establishing stands of perennial forage grasses, but weed control is necessary to establish the desirable grasses. The influences Bromus tectorum on the environment are many and complex. Perhaps the most important aspect of Bromus tectorum is it paves the way for invasion by other exotic, invasive species.