Resistance & Resilience
Using shrub, grass, and forb species from six locations in the western Great Basin, North America, we compared establishment, productivity, reproduction, phenology, and resistance to invaders for experimental communities with either sympatric or allopatric population associations. Each community type was planted with six taxa in outdoor mesocosms, measured over three growing seasons, and invaded with the annual grass Bromus tectorum in the final season. For most populations, the allopatric or sympatric status of neighbors was not important. However, in some cases, it was beneficial for some species from some locations to be planted with allopatric neighbors, while others benefited from sympatric neighbors, and some of these responses had large effects. For instance, the Elymus population that benefited the most from allopatry grew 50% larger with allopatric neighbors than in single origin mesocosms. This response affected invasion resistance, as B. tectorum biomass was strongly affected by productivity and phenology of Elymus spp., as well as Poa secunda. Our results demonstrate that, while community composition can affect plant performance in semi-arid plant communities, assembling communities from sympatric populations is not sufficient to ensure high productivity and invasion resistance. Instead, we observed an idiosyncratic interaction between sampling effects and evolutionary history, with the potential for seed source of individual populations to have community-level effects.
This webinar provides a framework for understanding and characterizing the ecological value and hydrologic support for meadows and for identifying key threats. The presenters illustrate how understanding the present-day status and sensitivity of the meadows can be used to prioritize areas for management and guide management strategies based on the potential for restoration.
This webinar provides a framework for assessing and characterizing the geomorphic sensitivity and ecological resilience of upland watersheds based on their predominant processes and the controls on these processes. The presenters illustrate how understanding the sensitivity, resilience, and process interactions can be used to assess the nature, magnitude, and potential responses of watersheds and stream reaches to disturbances and to determine their potential for restoration.
Interactions among species can strongly affect how plant communities reassemble after disturbances, and variability among native and invasive species across environmental gradients must be known in order to manage plant-community recovery. The stress-gradient hypothesis (SGH) predicts species interactions will be more positive in abiotically stressful conditions and conversely, more negative in benign conditions, and the resistance-resilience concept (RRC) may predict where and when invasions will complicate ecosystem recovery. We evaluated how abiotic stress and biotic interactions determine native bunchgrass abundances across environmental gradients using additive models of cover data from over 500 plots re-measured annually for 5 years as they recovered naturally (untreated) after a megafire (>100,000 ha) in sagebrush steppe threated by the invasive-grass and fire cycle.
Our new indicators were based on climate and soil water availability variables derived from process-based ecohydrological models that allow predictions of future conditions. We asked: (1) Which variables best indicate resilience and resistance? (2) What are the relationships among the indicator variables and resilience and resistance categories? (3) How do patterns of resilience and resistance vary across the area? We assembled a large database (n = 24,045) of vegetation sample plots from regional monitoring programs and derived multiple climate and soil water availability variables for each plot from ecohydrological simulations. We used USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service National Soils Survey Information, Ecological Site Descriptions, and expert knowledge to develop and assign ecological types and resilience and resistance categories to each plot. We used random forest models to derive a set of 19 climate and water availability variables that best predicted resilience and resistance categories. Our models had relatively high multiclass accuracy (80% for resilience; 75% for resistance). Top indicator variables for both resilience and resistance included mean temperature, coldest month temperature, climatic water deficit, and summer and driest month precipitation. Variable relationships and patterns differed among ecoregions but reflected environmental gradients; low resilience and resistance were indicated by warm and dry conditions with high climatic water deficits, and moderately high to high resilience and resistance were characterized by cooler and moister conditions with low climatic water deficits. The new, ecologically-relevant indicators provide information on the vulnerability of resources and likely success of management actions, and can be used to develop new approaches and tools for prioritizing areas for conservation and restoration actions.
This study expands on a 2011 tribal research needs assessment with a survey to identify tribal natural resource professionals’ research needs, access to research findings, and interest in participating in research. Information needs identified in our survey includes forest health, water quality, culturally significant species, workforce and tribal youth development, cultural importance of water, and invasive species. Additionally, postfire response and valuation, resilience and long-term forestry, protecting and curating tribal data, and Indigenous burning were more important research needs for tribal members than for nontribal members. This study can inform forestry research planning efforts and establish research priorities and collaborations that are aligned with needs identified by tribal natural resource managers.
Field data from 460 sagebrush populations sampled across the Great Basin revealed several patterns. Sagebrush seedlings were uncommon in the first 1–2 years after fire, with none detected in 69% of plots, largely because most fires occurred in areas of low resistance to invasive species and resilience to disturbance (hereafter, R&R). Post-fire aerial seeding of sagebrush dramatically increased seedling occupancy, especially in low R&R areas, which exhibited a 3.4-fold increase in occupancy over similar unseeded locations. However, occupancy models and repeat surveys suggested exceptionally high mortality, as occupancy rates declined by as much as 50% between the first and second years after fire. We found the prevalence of “fertile island” microsites (patches beneath fire-consumed sagebrush) to be the best predictor of seedling occupancy, followed by aerial seeding status, native perennial grass cover, and years since fire. In populations where no sagebrush seeding occurred, seedlings were most likely to occur in locations with a combination of high fertile island microsite cover and close proximity to a remnant sagebrush plant. These important attributes were only present in 13% of post-fire locations, making them rare across the Great Basin.
Past practices, such as fire suppression, have created densely packed forests with an overabundance of woody vegetation. Live or dead, this vegetation can fuel severe wildfire. Overcrowded growing conditions also prevent trees and other plants from obtaining sufficient nutrients, light, or water to bounce back and remain healthy following a stressful event. The warming climate further stresses vegetation and can foster tinderbox conditions on the landscape, especially under widespread persistent drought.
This presentation discusses the following topics as they relate to rangelands:
- Resistance and Resilience are commonly used terms in discussions about agriculture and preparing for the future.
- Provide a common understanding of these terms as they apply to the ecology of grazed systems.
- Relationships between ecological resistance and resilience, disturbances, and ecological processes will be discussed.
Our findings suggest that all deserts exhibited vulnerability to increasing fire disturbance because relatively low soil seed densities may not provide enough propagules for revegetation. Therefore, seeding of these communities may be especially important. In the cold deserts, this susceptibility was further evidenced by the fact that aboveground community composition in fire-affected areas was significantly different from the nearby unburned community even 30 years after fire and burned communities were associated with non-native species. That said, native species did exist in seed banks of burned sites and some taxa, like Sporobolus sp., occurred in high densities. Therefore, caution may be needed when using herbicide treatments to control exotic species as there may be unintended consequences of decreasing desirable species. In contrast, our warm desert sites exhibited less change in terms of seed densities, species richness and aboveground community composition following fire. In the face of more frequent fires, the lack of shrub seeds in the seed bank of all deserts was notable and we found no evidence of greater seed densities or unique species assemblages associated with shrub microsites.