Display Project

Sagebrush Ecosystems in a Changing Climate

Project Information

Affiliation: Northwest CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
Matthew J Germino (U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center)
Bryce Richardson (U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station)
Nancy Shaw (U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station)
David S Pilliod (U.S. Geological Survey Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (FRESC))
Keith Reinhardt (Idaho State University)
Kevin Feris (Boise State University)
Marie-Anne deGraff (Boise State University)
Kathleen Lohse (Idaho State University)
Diane Debinski (Iowa State University)
Kelly McCloskey (Grand Teton National Park)
David Pyke (U.S. Geological Survey FRESC)
Anne Halford (Bureau of Land Management)
Charlie Baun (State of Idaho and Department of Defense)
Stuart P Hardegree (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service)

Start Date: June 2012

End Date: August 2014

Project Status: Completed

Tags: sagebrush, restoration, conservation, climate change, vulnerability assessment, CSC, Northwest CSC, 2012

Fiscal Year: FY 2012 Projects


Climate responses of sagebrush are needed to inform land managers on  the stability and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems, which are an important but threatened  habitat type. We evaluated climate responses of sagebrush using two approaches: 1)  experimental manipulations of temperature and precipitation for natural plants in the field, and 2)  assessment of how climate adaptation and weather have affected sagebrush seeding efforts on  nearly 25 large-scale sagebrush seeding projects done over the past several decades.  Experimental warming increased growth of sagebrush in high-elevation meadows in the Teton  Mountains, but had marginal or no effects at lower elevations sites (near Twin Falls and Boise, Idaho, respectively). Increased precipitation enhanced sagebrush abundance, along with  flowering and stem growth, particularly when added in winter on deep soils. In the post-fire  seeding study, we found sagebrush abundances to be highly variable across different seeding  projects, and the variation was partly related to the climate of seeding and seed-source sites, and  weather. Sagebrush seeds typically traveled hundreds of km and nearly 1000 m downhill from  seed source/origins to seeding sites, from sites with colder minimum temperatures than the  seeding sites. Big sagebrush is comprised of subspecies that differ in their climate adaptation,  and many seeding projects received a subspecies that differed from the native type requested by  the land managers. These climate transfers appeared important to the success of seedings:  successful seedings imported seeds from sites having the same minimum temperatures. In failed  seedings, seeds originated from relatively colder sites and, moreover, years having relatively warm minimum temperatures prevailed following planting. These results suggest minimum  temperature and winter precipitation responses are important factors in the climate adaptation  and ecology of this desert shrub, and their consideration in climate vulnerability analyses and  selection of seed sources is likely to improve land planning and restoration. 

Products & Data
  • Desert shrub responses to experimental modification of precipitation seasonality and soil depth: relationship to the two-layer model and ecohydrological niche

    THUMBNAIL (External URL)
    index page (External URL)
    metadata2924455849173808295.xml (Download)
  • Final Project Report - Sagebrush Ecosystems in a Changing Climate

    NWCSC_FY11_Germino_FinalReport_21Oct14.pdf (Download)
  • Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Ecohydrology Experiment Data

    INL Ecohydrology.xlsx (Download)
    INL_Ecohydrology.xml (Download)
  • Post-fire Seeding Effects Study Data

    post-fire seeding study.xlsx (Download)
    Post-fireSeedingEffects_Metadata.xml (Download)
  • Sagebrush Responses to Shifting Climate and Fire Disturbances

    Webinar (External URL)
  • Snake River Plain (SRP) Warming Experiment Data

    SnakeRiverPlanWarmingStudy_Metadata.xml (Download)
    SRP Warming Study.zip (Download)
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