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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Water Management and Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #388160

Research Project: Response of Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Watersheds to Changes in Water Availability, Land Use, Management, and Climate

Location: Water Management and Systems Research

Title: Greater sage-grouse respond positively to intensive post-fire restoration treatments

item POESSEL, SHARON - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item Barnard, David
item APPLESTEIN, CARA - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item GERMINO, MATTHEW - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item ELLSWORTH, ETHAN - Bureau Of Land Management
item MAJOR, DON - Bureau Of Land Management
item MOSER, ANN - Idaho Department Of Fish & Game
item KATZNER, TODD - Us Geological Survey (USGS)

Submitted to: Ecology and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2022
Publication Date: 3/22/2022
Citation: Poessel, S.A., Barnard, D.M., Applestein, C.V., Germino, M.J., Ellsworth, E.A., Major, D., Moser, A., Katzner, T.E. 2022. Greater sage-grouse respond positively to intensive post-fire restoration treatments. Ecology and Evolution. 12(3). Article e8671.

Interpretive Summary: Loss of sage-grouse habitat from fire threatens the future and success of this keystone species. In the Great Basin, much effort is made to restore sagebrush steppe vegetation after fire, prevent invasive exotics from establishing, and promote future redevelopment of grazing lands and wildlife habitat. In this paper, we use field data collected following the 2015 Soda Fire in southern Idaho, combined with sage-grouse telemetry data from GPS collars to assess intra-annual sage-grouse resource-selection and habitat preference. Sage grouse strongly preferred areas that had been seeded with native grasses and shrubs, especially during winter when sagebrush is a key component of their diet. Sage-grouse avoided areas that had high exotic annual grass cover. These findings will help assist resource managers to locate restoration treatments and prioritize areas within burn parameters for sage-grouse conservation.

Technical Abstract: Habitat loss is the most prevalent threat to biodiversity in North America. One of the most threatened landscapes in the United States is the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem, much of which has been fragmented or converted to non-native grasslands via the cheatgrass-fire cycle. Like many sagebrush obligates, greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) depend upon sagebrush for food and cover and are affected by changes to this ecosystem. We investigated habitat selection by male greater sage-grouse during each of three years after a 113,000-ha wildfire in sagebrush steppe in Idaho and Oregon. During the study period, comprehensive treatments were applied for habitat restoration. Throughout the three years post-fire, sage-grouse avoided areas with high exotic annual grasses, but selected strongly for recovering sagebrush and moderately strongly for perennial grasses. By the third year post-fire, they preferred high-density sagebrush, especially in winter when sagebrush is the primary component of the sage-grouse diet. Sage-grouse preferred forb habitat immediately post-fire, especially in summer, but this selection preference was less strong in later years. They also selected areas that were intensively treated with herbicide and seeded with sagebrush, grasses, and forbs, although these responses varied with time since treatment. Wildfire can have severe consequences for sagebrush-obligate species due to loss of large sagebrush plants used for food and for protection from predators and thermal extremes. Our results show that management efforts, including herbicide application and seeding of plants, directed at controlling exotic annual grasses after a wildfire can positively affect habitat selection by sage-grouse.