Submitted to: Applied Vegetation Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 16, 2006
Publication Date: August 20, 2007
Citation: Seefeldt, S.S., Germino, M., Dicristina, K. 2007. Prescribed fires in Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana steppe have minor and transient effects on vegetation cover and composition. Applied Vegetation Science. 10:249-256.
Interpretive Summary: Very little research has been conducted to determine the impacts of fire in mountain big sagebrush steppe of vegetation cover and frequency. And most previous research has been conducted without knowledge of the vegetation before the fire. Land managers are frequently forced to make decisions about fire without adequate scientific information. This study was conducted using two sets of prescribed fires lit in 2002 and 2203 in at the USDA-ARS U. S. Sheep Experiment Station in a mountain big sagebrush steppe ecosystem that was relatively free of non-native plants and disturbance. Of all the plant species measured, three (mountain big sagebrush, Idaho fescue, and bushy birdbeak) decreased, four (needle and thread grass, Douglas’s knotweed, slimleaf goosefoot, and Fremont’s goosefoot) increased. The remaining 63 species were not impacted by the fire. Within two years after the fire cover and frequency of all species except mountain big sagebrush and Idaho fescue had returned to pre-fire levels. The developing plant community is similar to the one before fire and will most likely result in a return to a sagebrush dominated community. Based on the findings of this study, a fire occurring in a native stand of mountain big sagebrush will minimally impact vegetation and the impacts will be transient.
Very little research has been conducted to determine the impacts of fire in mountain big sagebrush steppe of vegetation cover and frequency. Multiple prescribed fires were lit in 2002 and 2003 at the USDA-ARS U. S. Sheep Experiment Station in a mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana) steppe ecosystem that was relatively free of exotic plants. Measurements of cover components and plant species frequencies were taken before and for 2 to 3 yr after the fires. Cover of forbs, grasses and bare ground returned to pre-fire levels after two years. Shrub cover declined from 36 to 6% in the first year after fire. Fire reduced the frequencies of three species (A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana, Festuca Idahoensis, and Cordylanthus ramosus) of rangeland plants. Frequencies of four plant species (Hesperostipa comata, Polygonum douglasii, Chenopodium fremontii and Chenopodium leptophyllum) increased, but only P. douglasii increased for more than a year. This study demonstrates that in a mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana) steppe ecosystem without significant non-native species or anthropogenic disturbances cover components and plant species frequencies are only minimally altered. The developing plant community is similar to the one before fire and will most likely result in a return to a sagebrush dominated community.