International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Environmental and climatic variables as potential drivers of post-fire cover of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in seeded and unseeded semiarid ecosystems

Douglas J. Shinneman A C and William L. Baker B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.

B Ecology Program and Department of Geography, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA. Email:

C Corresponding author. Present address: US Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Snake River Field Station, 970 Lusk St., Boise, ID 83706, USA. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 18(2) 191-202
Submitted: 28 February 2007  Accepted: 24 June 2008   Published: 3 April 2009


Cheatgrass, a non-native annual grass, dominates millions of hectares in semiarid ecosystems of the Intermountain West (USA). Post-fire invasions can reduce native species diversity and alter ecological processes. To curb cheatgrass invasion, land managers often seed recently burned areas with perennial competitor species. We sampled vegetation within burned (1–9 years post-fire) and nearby unburned (representing pre-fire) piñon–juniper (Pinus edulisJuniperus osteosperma) woodland and sagebrush (Artemisia sp.) in western Colorado to analyze variables that might explain cheatgrass cover after fire. A multiple regression model suggests higher cheatgrass cover after fire with: (1) sagebrush v. piñon–juniper; (2) higher pre-fire cover of annual forbs; (3) increased time since fire; (4) lower pre-fire cover of biological soil crust; and (5) lower precipitation the year before fire. Time since fire, which coincided with higher precipitation, accounts for most of the variability in cheatgrass cover. No significant difference was found in mean cheatgrass cover between seeded and unseeded plots over time. However, negative relationships with pre-fire biological soil crust cover and native species richness suggest livestock-degraded areas are more susceptible to post-fire invasion. Proactive strategies for combating cheatgrass should include finding effective native competitors and restoring livestock-degraded areas.

Additional keywords: invasive species, non-native, piñon–juniper woodland, post-fire seeding, sagebrush shrubland.


The present study was supported by the US Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management under Agreement No. ESA020016. We appreciate the assistance of Bob Welch and Amanda Clements at the Uncompahgre Field Office and Harley Metz with the Grand Junction Field Office. We also acknowledge support provided by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Grand Rapids, MN, and The Nature Conservancy, Minneapolis, MN.


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