Relations Among Cheatgrass, Fire, Climate, and Sensitive-Status Birds across the Great Basin

Project Summary

Affiliation(s): Southwest CSC, Northwest CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Erica Fleishman (University of California, Davis)

The distribution and abundance of cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass native to Eurasia, has increased substantially across the Intermountain West, including the Great Basin. Cheatgrass is highly flammable, and as it has expanded, the extent and frequency of fire in the Great Basin has increased by as much as 200%. These changes in fire regimes are associated with loss of the native sagebrush, grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants that provide habitat for many native animals, including Greater Sage-Grouse. Changes in vegetation and fire management have been suggested with the intent of conserving Greater Sage-Grouse. However, the potential responses of other sensitive-status birds to these changes in management have not been well evaluated. 

This project will examine current and future interactions among cheatgrass density, precipitation, and fire across the Great Basin. Growth of cheatgrass is much more responsive than many native plants to variation in precipitation, especially during winter and spring. The project also will model current and future cover of sagebrush and native grasses and forbs, and explore how projected changes in fire patterns and vegetation and fire management may affect sensitive-status breeding birds. The results of this project may inform decisions about management of vegetation, fuels, and habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse.

This project is also supported by the Joint Fire Science Program.

Monitor Range, Nye County, Nevada - Credit: Erica Fleishman

Affiliation(s): Southwest CSC, Northwest CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Erica Fleishman (University of California, Davis)
  • 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 Landscape Conservation Cooperative)
  • Mike Pellant (Bureau of Land Management)

Start Date: October 2015

End Date: September 2018

Project Status: In Progress

Tags: Great Basin, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, California, Owyhee Uplands, Bodie Hills-Pine Nut Mountains, Northwest, CSC, Northwest CSC, 2015, Wildlife and Plants, Drought, Fire and Extreme Weather, Birds, Plants, Fire, Landscapes, Grasslands and Plains

Fiscal Year: FY 2015 Projects