Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center (NW CASC) Fellow Cara Applestein is the lead author on a new paper that evaluates methods of monitoring sagebrush-steppe ecosystems after disturbance events such as wildfire. Sagebrush-steppe is a type of grassland ecosystem made up of sagebrush and other native shrubs, grasses and plants that provide important ecological services, support a diversity of species and are used by the ranching industry for grazing livestock. This important ecosystem is being threatened by increasing droughts, wildfires and invasive species associated climate change.
Cara’s paper explores what landscape variables (variation in elevation, vegetation dominance, and slope) need to be considered when designing sagebrush-steppe monitoring plans. It also looks at how plot size impacts the precision of vegetation sampling. The results can be used to help design monitoring plans aimed at assessing how sagebrush-steppe ecosystems respond to wildfire events and other disturbances. Collecting better information about vegetation conditions in the sagebrush-steppe following disturbances such as wildfire can help managers make more informed decisions to protect this fragile ecosystem.
Cara is also conducting research on how sagebrush, invasive annual grasses and perennial bunchgrasses will interact under future climate scenarios. Her research seeks to understand how changes in temperature and precipitation affect the post-fire interactions among these grasses. The results of this research may help inform land managers’ decisions about restoration options.
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