Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research
Title: Rehabilitation of cheatgrass infested rangelands Authors
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 18, 2012
Publication Date: September 7, 2012
Citation: Clements, C.D., Harmon, D.N., Blank, R.R. 2012. Rehabilitation of cheatgrass infested rangelands [abstract]. National Public Lands Council. 12:6. Technical Abstract: The introduction and subsequent invasion of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has altered native plant communities and the wildlife species that depend on these communities. Cheatgrass has truncated secondary succession by outcompeting native plant species for limited resources, thus building persistent seed banks to take advantage of conditions that occur in arid environments. The presence of cheatgrass has increased the chance, rate, spread, and season of wildfires. The wildfire storms that occurred in 2012 in the Intermountain West are a result of fuel buildups of cheatgrass from 2010-2011. The implementation of rest rotation grazing significantly contributes to these fuel buildups. Rest rotation grazing was developed for perennial grass communities; the presence of annual grasses such as cheatgrass completely changes the opportunity for perennial grasses to benefit from rest rotation grazing simply because cheatgrass outcompetes native perennial grass seedlings with or without grazing. Ray Evans pointed out more than three decades ago that as little as 4 cheatgrass plants per square foot can outcompete native and introduced perennial grass seedlings. It is not uncommon to have more than 100 cheatgrass plants per square foot throughout the Intermountain West. The establishment of long-lived perennial grasses is the key at suppressing cheatgrass densities and fuel loads. The use of natural and prescribed fires in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) communities can open a window for successful rehabilitation efforts as these fires burn hot enough for a long enough period of time to kill the majority of cheatgrass in the seed bank. On the other hand, a wildfire in a cheatgrass dominated community burns so fast that live seeds are numerous in the seed bank as well as on the surface. The decrease in available nitrogen also limits cheatgrass germination the 1st fall and spring following the wildfire, therefor decreasing the competition that desirable seeded species will face the following spring. If you miss seeding the 1st fall following a big sagebrush wildfire, the window drastically closes and any success is very limited. Mechanical and herbicide treatments are also tools that can be used in decreasing cheatgrass seed bank densities. This paper presents clear examples of methodologies at decreasing cheatgrass densities and fuel loads as well as plant material testing plots that report those species that showed the best performance and ability to compete with and suppress cheatgrass.