Assistant Professor to study long-term, post-wildfire changes in sagebrush ecosystems

May. 11, 2015
Matt Davies, an assistant professor of soil and plant community restoration in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University was recently awarded funding to study long-term, post-wildfire changes in the sagebrush ecosystems of eastern Washington. The project, “Long-term SUCCESS: SUCCession and Ecosystem dynamics in the Sagebrush Steppe following Wildfires,” is a collaboration with Jon Bakker of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. The research is funded through a grant from the Joint Fire Science Program, which funds scientific research on wildland fires and distributes results to help policymakers, fire managers and practitioners make sound decisions. 
 
 
      
Grassland habitats at Matt and Jon’s study site,               Lower elevations of Matt and Jon’s study site have become
the area was formerly dominated by sagebrush.              dominated by phlox following the loss of sagebrush and bunchgrasses
                                                                                         after multiple wildfires.

 

Sagebrush habitats are home to a large number of rare plants and animals such as the endemic sage-grouse. They are also important for rangeland grazing. Repeated wildfires are leading to the rapid loss of shrub cover and the spread of invasive species, such as cheatgrass. The team seeks to build new “State and Transition models” that will help managers track the impact of wildfires and assess whether restoration can reduce the abundance of invasive species and restore shrub-dominated habitats. 
 
 
         
            One of Matt and Jon’s study sites – the Arid Lands            Matt monitoring a permanent plot at the Arid Lands 
            Ecology Reserve in eastern Washington. Matt and Jon      Ecology Reserve.
            are also working at the Department of Defense’s 
            Yakima Training Center.
 
 
The project will build on more than twenty years of monitoring giving a unique long-term perspective on how these habitats have changed. Matt and Jon are collaborating with a range of state, federal and private landowners including the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management.
 
Photos courtesy of Matt Davies.
 
May 2015.