These abstracts of recent papers on rangeland management in the West were prepared by Charlie Clements, Rangeland Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Reno, NV.
This study examines tree growth and mortality associated with spring and fall burning repeated at five (5 yr) and fifteen-year (15 yr) intervals in six previously thinned ponderosa pine stands in the southern Blue Mountain Ecoregion near Burns, Oregon, USA. Each stand consisted of an unburned control, and four season-by-burn interval treatments: spring 5 yr, spring 15 yr, fall 5 yr, and fall 15 yr. Burning was initiated in fall 1997 and spring 1998. Pine height and diameter growth was evaluated in 2013, 15 years following initial treatment. Mortality was assessed annually from 2002 to 2017, when these stands experienced severe defoliation from pine butterfly (PB, Neophasia menapia), followed by a moderate outbreak of western pine beetle (WPB, Dendroctonus brevicomis), allowing us to examine resistance to these disturbances. Pine in the 5 yr fall treatments added more diameter than spring 15 yr and marginally more than spring 5 yr, while fall 15 yr added marginally more diameter than spring 15 yr. In addition, the fall 5 yr treatments had lower mortality associated with prescribed fire, PB, WPB, Ips spp., red turpentine beetle (RTB, D. valens), and mountain pine beetle (MPB, D. ponderosae), but the effect was not always significant. Annosus root disease (ARD, caused by Heterobasidion irregulare) and black stain root disease (BSRD, caused by Leptographium wagneri var. ponderosum) appear to be unaffected by burning. However, BSRD occurrence dramatically declined in all treatments, probably a result of thinning prior to study initiation. Results from this study demonstrate that repeated fall burning, especially at 5-year intervals, improves ponderosa pine diameter growth and may provide resistance to future biotic and abiotic disturbances while spring burning, regardless of frequency, does not.
The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture have long-term goals to reintroduce fire into U.S. ecosystems at ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. Building on decades of collaborative work, a Master Participating Agreement was signed in March 2017 to increase overall fire management capacity through training and education. In October 2017, The Nature Conservancy hosted a cross-boundary fire training, education, research, and restoration-related event for 2 weeks at Sycan Marsh Preserve in Oregon. Eighty people from 15 organizations applied prescribed fire on over 1,200 acres (490 ha). Managers and scientists participated
in the applied learning and training exercise. The exercise was a success; operational and research objectives were met, as indicated by multiagency, multidisciplinary fire research, and effectiveness monitoring. This paper describes a paradigm shift of fire-adapted, cross-boundary, multiagency landscape-scale restoration. Participants integrated adaptive management and translational ecology so that applied controlled burning incorporated
the most up-to-date scientifically informed management decisions. Scientists worked with practitioners to advance their understanding of the challenges being addressed by managers. The model program has stimulated an exponential increase in landscape scale and ecologically relevant dry forest restoration in eastern Oregon. Collaboration between managers and scientists is foundational in the long-term success of fire-adapted restoration. Examples of effects of prescribed fire on ecosystem services in the project area, such as increased resilience of trees in drought years, are also provided.
The Great Basin Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration is hosting a virtual conference with a diverse range of speakers–early career scientists studying a range of restoration-related topics. If you are interested in learning about hot topics on the horizon for restoration in our region, this is the meeting for you!
Think of a floodplain as a sponge: Each spring, floodplains in the West soak up snow melting from the mountains. The sponge is then wrung out during summer and fall, when the snow is gone and rainfall is scarce. The more water that stays in the sponge, the longer streams can flow and plants can thrive. A full sponge makes the landscape better equipped to handle natural disasters, since wet places full of green vegetation can slow floods, tolerate droughts or stall flames.
The Pinyon Jay is a highly social, year-round inhabitant of pinyon-juniper and other coniferous woodlands in the western United States. Range-wide, Pinyon Jays have declined ~ 3-4% per year for at least the last half-century. Occurrence patterns and habitat use of Pinyon Jays have not been well characterized across much of the species’ range, and obtaining this information is necessary for better understanding the causes of ongoing declines and determining useful conservation strategies. Additionally, it is important to better understand if and how targeted removal of pinyon-juniper woodland, a common and widespread vegetation management practice, affects Pinyon Jays. The goal of this study was to identify the characteristics of areas used by Pinyon Jays for several critical life history components in the Great Basin, which is home to nearly half of the species’ global population, and to thereby facilitate the inclusion of Pinyon Jay conservation measures in the design of vegetation management projects. To accomplish this, we studied Pinyon Jays in three widely separated study areas using radio telemetry and direct observation and measured key attributes of their locations and a separate set of randomly-selected control sites using the U. S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory Analysis protocol. Data visualizations, principle components analysis, and logistic regressions of the resulting data indicated that Pinyon Jays used a distinct subset of available pinyon-juniper woodland habitat, and further suggested that Pinyon Jays used different but overlapping habitats for seed caching, foraging, and nesting. Caching was concentrated in low-elevation, relatively flat areas with low tree cover; foraging occurred at slightly higher elevations with generally moderate but variable tree cover; and nesting was concentrated in slightly higher areas with high tree and vegetation cover. All three of these Pinyon Jay behavior types were highly concentrated within the lower-elevation band of pinyon-juniper woodland close to the woodland-shrubland ecotone. Woodland removal projects in the Great Basin are often concentrated in these same areas, so it is potentially important to incorporate conservation measures informed by Pinyon Jay occurrence patterns into existing woodland management paradigms, protocols, and practices.
Virtual field day registration.
This field day presents the opportunity to look back and look forward at grassland restoration and practice in California’s spectacular native grasslands. We’ll take you through the restoration process: from wildland seed collection through farm production to tours of restored field site.
Follow the life of a seed from wildland seed collection to farm production.
Seed collection at Hedgerow Farms and Pacific Coast Seed with Jeff Quiter, Hedgerow Farms, Tanya Meyer, Yolo Co. RCD
Farm production: planting harvesting, processing with Pat Reynolds, CNGA, Andrew Fulks, Putah Creek Reserve; Bryan Young, Sacramento Regional Co. Sanitation District; Chris Rose, Solano Co. RCD
Seeds of restoration: Where are they now? Tour the state with virtual “show and tell” site visits and presentations.
Willits Mitigation Project, Mendocino County with Emily Allen, Consultant
Vic Claassen, Soil Scientist, UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources
Valerie Eviner, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis
Southern California with Robert Freese, Irvine Ranch Conservancy/Orange County Parks, Megan Lulow, UC Irvine, Collin Raff, Irvine Ranch Conservancy
Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma County with Michelle Halbur, Preserve Ecologist
Urban Landscaping for Wildlife Habitat with Billy Krimmel, Owner, Miridae,
Russell Ranch, UC Davis, Yolo County with JP Marié, Manager, UC Davis Putah Creek Marine Reserve
San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, with Stephen Sheppard, River Partners
View the report.
Wildland fires in 1999 and 2000 were the worst in 50 years and burned millions of acres of public lands. A shortage of native plant materials substantially increased the cost of rehabilitation and restoration efforts on the burned lands. Ecosystem restoration with native plants, in many cases, is the best option for restoring land health for multiple resource values and minimizing the establishment of invasive weeds.
Webinar join link.
Visit webinar webpage for information about all individual webinars.
The SCIENCEx webinar series brings together scientists and land management experts from across U.S. Forest Service research stations and beyond to explore the latest science and best practices for addressing large natural resource challenges across the country. These webinars will be primarily management focused, but with applicability for participants from across sectors. SCIENCEx will typically be organized as week-long webinar ‘blitzes’ around salient topics, allowing for deep-dives into subtopics or dynamics within specific geographies.
There are thousands of abandoned mine land (AML) sites in the U.S. that need to be restored to reduce wind and water erosion, provide wildlife forage, shade streams, and improve productivity. Biochar created from woody biomass that would normally be burned in slash piles can be applied to soil to improve soil properties and is one method to restore AML soil productive capacity. Using this ‘waste’ biomass for biochar and reclamation activities will reduce wildfire risk, air pollution from burning, and particulates released from burning wood. Biochar has the potential to improve water quality, bind heavy metals, or decrease toxic chemical concentrations, while improving soil health to establish sustainable plant cover, thereby preventing soil erosion, leaching, or other unintended, negative environmental consequences. Using forest residues to create biochar also helps reduce woody biomass and improves forest health and resilience. We address concerns surrounding organic and inorganic contaminants on the biochar and how this might affect its’ efficacy and provide valuable information to increase restoration activities on AMLs using biochar alone or in combination with other organic amendments. Several examples of AML biochar restoration sites initiated to evaluate short- and long-term above- and belowground ecosystem responses are presented.