Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/11/2021
Publication Date: 6/1/2021
Citation: Hamerlynck, E.P., Boyd, C.S. 2021. Using a grass of the Anthropocene as a functional guide to restore sagebrush-steppe. Rangelands. 43(3):117-120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rala.2021.03.005.
Interpretive Summary: In this review, we argue that crested wheatgrass evolved many traits in response to human pasture and livestock management practices in its native Eurasian range that have contributed to its success in North American sagebrush steppe rangelands. We then provide some examples from recent Burns USDA-ARS location research to support our arguments and conclude that crested wheatgrass provides a functional “road map” for selecting and improving native grasses in order to restore sagebrush steppe degraded by cheatgrass invasion.
Technical Abstract: Restoration in the Great Basin is limited by low establishment success of seeded native perennial bunchgrasses. Seedling establishment of native perennial grasses is decreased by recent regional changes in biotic (e.g., increased competition from exotic annual grasses) and abiotic (e.g. altered fire regimes) conditions, and native bunchgrasses have not had sufficient time to fully adapt to these challenges. Non-native perennial bunchgrasses such as crested wheatgrass have long evolutionary history of adaptation to similar challenges that includes long-term intensive human management of pastoral grazing systems and possess unique physiological traits that increase seedling establishment in dynamic semiarid rangeland environments. We provide an overview of specific physiological traits that make crested wheatgrass successful in Great Basin seedings and suggest how these characteristics could be used to guide plant material selection and development of native bunchgrasses.