Using postfire spatial variability to improve restoration success with seeded bitterbrush

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We evaluated seeding bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) after wildfire in former western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis ssp. occidentalis) canopy compared with interspace microsites at six locations for 3 yr post seeding. Bitterbrush abundance was 3.6-fold greater in former canopy compared with interspace microsites after 3 yr. Bitterbrush height was 1.5 to 2.5-fold greater in former canopy compared with interspace microsites. The first year after fire, exotic annual grass cover was 15.6-fold greater in interspace compared with canopy microsites. Abundance and cover of other herbaceous vegetation were generally also greater in the interspace. Exotic annual grass and native bunchgrass abundance increased substantially over time in former canopy microsites, suggesting abundant resource availability. Less herbaceous competition and presumably greater resource availability in former canopies probably resulted in greater success of seeded bitterbrush. These results suggest that capitalizing on spatial variability in environments can be used to increase restoration efficiency. After fire in western juniper−encroached rangelands, former juniper canopy microsites are a favorable environment for establishment and growth of seeded bitterbrush and could be targeted for restoration efforts to improve efficiency.

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