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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345117

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

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Improving seeding success on cheatgrass infested rangelands in northern Nevada

Author
item Clements, Darin - Charlie
item Harmon, Daniel - Dan
item Blank, Robert - Bob
item Weltz, Mark

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/19/2017
Publication Date: 12/7/2017
Citation: Clements, D.D., Harmon, D.N., Blank, R.R., Weltz, M.A. 2017. Improving seeding success on cheatgrass infested rangelands in northern Nevada. Rangelands. 39(6):174-181. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rala.2017.10.003.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rala.2017.10.003

Interpretive Summary: The accidental introduction and subsequent invasion of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) onto millions of hectares of Great Basin rangelands has led to the conversion of former big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.)/bunchgrass communities to cheatgrass dominance. Native to Europe, central Asia and northern Africa, cheatgrass was accidentally introduced to North America where it was first identified in Pennsylvania around 1861, believed to be in contaminated wheat, and later identified in northern Nevada in 1902 where it spread rapidly throughout big sagebrush rangelands. Aldo Leopold recognized more than a half century ago how impossible it is to protect wildlife habitat from wildfire because of the presence of cheatgrass. This invasive annual grass truncates secondary succession by largely inhibiting the establishment of perennial seedlings through competition for moisture. The ability of resource managers and land owners to restore or rehabilitate cheatgrass infested rangelands is extremely challenging. The best known method to suppress cheatgrass densities and associated fuels is through the establishment of long-lived perennial grasses. In this paper, we will describe our experiences in establishing long-lived perennial grasses on cheatgrass infested rangelands with the ultimate goal of reducing cheatgrass densities and associated fuels and wildfire risks in an effort to allow succession to take place and improve grazing and wildlife resources.

Technical Abstract: Invasion of alien plant species influences many phases of wildland research in the Great Basin. The accidental introduction and subsequent invasion of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) onto millions of hectares of Great Basin rangelands has led to the conversion of former big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.)/bunchgrass communities to cheatgrass dominance (Fig. 1). Native to Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa, cheatgrass was accidentally introduced to North America, where it was first identified in Pennsylvania around 1861 and believed to be in contaminated wheat. It was not identified in northern Nevada until 1902, where it spread rapidly throughout big sagebrush rangelands. Cheatgrass has transformed secondary succession in more arid big sagebrush plant communities throughout the Great Basin by providing a fine-textured, early maturing fuel that increases the chance, rate, spread, and season of wildfires. Whisenant6 estimated the presence of cheatgrass has reduced the interval between wildfires on the Snake River Plains from the previously reported 60 to 110 years to 5 years. Aldo Leopold recognized more than a half century ago how impossible it is to protect wildlife habitat from wildfire because of the presence of cheatgrass. This invasive annual grass truncates secondary succession by largely inhibiting the establishment of perennial seedlings through competition for moisture. It is extremely challenging for resource managers and landowners to restore or rehabilitate cheatgrass-infested rangelands. The best known method to suppress cheatgrass densities and associated fuels is through the establishment of perennial grasses. In this paper, we will describe our experiences in establishing perennial grasses and shrubs on cheatgrass-infested rangelands with the ultimate goal of reducing cheatgrass densities and associated fuels and wildfire risks in an effort to allow succession to take place and improve grazing and wildlife resources.