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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335575

Research Project: Invasive Species Assessment and Control to Enhance Sustainability of Great Basin Rangelands

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Effects of mulch on plant and soil recovery after wildfire in the eastern Great Basin

item DENCKER, CAMIE - University Of Nevada
item GICKLHORN, JEFFREY - University Of Nevada
item DERASARY, LARA - Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition
item Newingham, Beth

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/31/2016
Publication Date: 1/29/2017
Citation: Dencker, C., Gicklhorn, J., Derasary, L., Newingham, B.A. 2017. Effects of mulch on plant and soil recovery after wildfire in the eastern Great Basin. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. 14-5.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Straw mulch is often applied after wildfire to reduce soil erosion and potentially increase soil moisture and thus plant recruitment. However, the efficacy of mulch treatments is poorly known, particularly in Great Basin ecosystems. We examined the effects of straw mulch application on the Black fire, which burned in July 2013 near Great Basin National Park. Straw mulch treatments were aerially applied on a south- and east-facing slope. Canopy and ground cover, plant density, basal and canopy gaps, and soil stability were measured at both sites in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in mulched and control areas. Canopy cover increased and canopy gap decreased from 2014 to 2016. Bareground decreased at all sites from 2014 to 2015, while only south-facing sites continued to decrease in 2016. Basal gap increased in treated sites from 2014 to 2016. Soil stability declined in treated sites after three years. Mulch significantly increased canopy cover, decreased basal gap and bareground, but had no effect on canopy gap. The surprising increase in basal gap with mulch application over time may be due to mulch washing or blowing away or being incorprated into the soil surface. Our results suggest that post-fire mulch application promotes vegetative growth and decreases bareground and soil stability over time. Therefore, additional methods should be considered for restoration treatments seeking to stabilize soils.