As the distribution and abundance of nonnative cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in the Great Basin has increased, the extent and frequency of fire in the region has increased by as much as 200 percent. These changes in fire regimes are associated with loss of the sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and native grasses and forbs in which many native animals, including greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), breed and feed. Changes in fire regimes, fuels treatments, and post-fire restoration have been suggested with the intent of increasing the probability of sage-grouse persistence. However, the potential responses of other sensitive-status birds to these interventions have not been assessed rigorously. This project will model current and future (to 2050) spatial interactions among cheatgrass cover and biomass, precipitation, and fire across the Great Basin and model current and future cover of sagebrush and herbaceous vegetation. The research team will also examine projected changes in fire regimes and fire and fuel treatments that may affect habitat quality for and probability of occupancy of sensitive-status breeding birds. Statistical analyses will be used to detect any abrupt, nonlinear temporal changes in projected vegetation cover, habitat quality, and occupancy.
Relations Among Cheatgrass-driven Fire, Climate, and Sensitive-Status Birds across the Great Basin
Project Start Year
Jennifer Balch (University of Colorado Boulder), Bethany Bradley (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Ned Horning (American Museum of Natural History), Matthias Leu (College of William and Mary), Ralph Mac Nally (University of Canberra), Todd Hopkins (Great Basin LCC), Mike Pellant (Bureau of Land Management)
Outreach and Engagement
The project team aims to engage managers at local, state, and regional levels, and to involve both field-level and director-level personnel, during all stages of the proposed project. Their methods of engagement are intended to save managers’ time and decrease some of the uncertainty in planning and decision-making rather than to create additional pressures on managers’ time. They are conducting field visits, workshops, and interactive briefings to build trust and increase the likelihood of informing management actions during the project period and beyond. In most cases, they are visiting with managers at their local or regional offices or hubs rather than hosting all-hands meetings in major cities.