Funded Research Projects: RESTORATION ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HORTICULTURE

Long-term SUCCESS: SUCCession and Ecosystem dynamics in the Sagebrush Steppe following wildfires

Research Sponsored By: USDI Bureau of Land Management
Principal Investigator: Jonathan Bakker
Project Description
This project will examine the effect of historic wildfires on ecosystem dynamics in sagebrush steppe habitats of western North America. Across the Intermountain West the wildfire and species invasion by cheatgrass has created a vicious cycle of increased fire frequency and extent and further invasion. A substantial amount of research has been completed to try and model how these ecosystems change following fire but most work is based on a rather limited range of conditions and datasets which only cover a short period following fire. Previous work by PI Bakker and Co-PI Davies has shown that long-term monitoring is a necessity for separating temporary changes in species composition from permanent changes ecosystem state. This proposal will add to existing datasets that have tracked changes in community composition on a number of sites over the last 20-30 years. We will re-record data from approximately 200 permanent plots on public and private land in eastern Washington State. Data will be analyzed using a number of advanced, multivariate statistical techniques including Multivariate Control Charts, Principle Response Curves, Cluster Analysis and niche modeling techniques. Analysis will focus on quantifying the relative importance of fire, restoration, climate and edaphic site characteristics for community composition. In addition we will construct and validate a quantitative “State and Transition” model which will allow managers to track and forecast ecosystem dynamics based on the relative abundance of simple morphological plant-types.