Submitted to: Restoration Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/14/2020
Publication Date: 7/30/2020
Citation: Davies, K.W., Bates, J.D., Clenet, D. 2020. Improving restoration success through microsite selection: an example with planting sagebrush seedlings after wildfire. Restoration Ecology. 28(4):859-868. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13139.
Interpretive Summary: Determining where sagebrush seedling should be planted post-fire is needed to improve sagebrush restoration efficiency. After fire in sagebrush communities there are two distinct microsites, former sagebrush canopy and between canopies (interspace). We compared planting sagebrush seedlings post-fire in former sagebrush canopy and interspace microsites at five locations. Sagebrush seedling survival and cover were substantially greater in former canopy microsites, likely because of less competition and increase resources. These results suggest that seedlings should be planted in former canopy microsites to improve restoration success and efficiency. This research is of interest to restoration practitioners, wildlife biologists, and rangeland managers.
Technical Abstract: Post-fire restoration of foundation plant species, particularly non-sprouting shrubs, is critically needed in arid and semi-arid rangeland, but is hampered by low success. Expensive and labor intensive methods, including planting seedlings, can improve restoration success. Prioritizing where these more intensive methods are applied may improve restoration efficiency. Shrubs in arid and semi-arid environments can create resource islands under their canopies that may remain after fire. Seedlings planted post-fire in former canopy and between canopies (interspace) may have different survival and growth. We compared planting Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) seedlings post-fire in former sagebrush canopy and interspace microsites at five locations. Four growing seasons after planting, seedling survival was 46% and 7% in canopy and interspace microsites, respectively. Sagebrush cover was 5.8 times greater in canopy compared to interspace microsites. Sagebrush survival and cover were likely greater because of less competition as well as benefiting from resource island effects in canopy microsites. Initially post-fire abundance of exotic annual grasses was less in canopy microsites, but by the third year post-fire it was substantially greater in canopy microsites, indicating that resource availability to seedlings was greater, at least initially, in canopy microsites. These results suggest seedlings should be planted in former shrub canopy microsites or other microsites with higher success to improve restoration success and efficiency. This is important as the need for restoration greatly exceeds resources available for restoration.