Seed mixes used for postfire seeding in the Great Basin are often selected on the basis of short-term rehabilitation objectives, such as ability to rapidly establish and suppress invasive exotic annuals (e.g., cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum L.). Longer-term considerations are also important, including whether seeded plants persist, continue to suppress invasives, and promote recovery of desired vegetation. To better understand long-term effects of postfire seed mixes, we revisited study sites in Tintic Valley, Utah, where seeding experiments had been initiated after the 1999 Railroad wildfire. Four different mixes, including two comprised entirely of native species, had been applied using rangeland drills at a shrubland site and aerial seeding followed by one-way Ely chaining at a woodland site. New vegetation data collected 16 years post fire revealed changes relative to 3 years post fire. We found significant increases in total cover of seed-mix species in all treatments, including the unseeded control where these species were present as residual populations or had spread from seeded treatments. Significant increases of seed-mix species cover and density were observed in blocks where seeding treatments had previously been considered unsuccessful. Some seed-mix species, particularly rhizomatous grasses, increased while others declined. Exotic annual forb cover decreased in all treatments while cheatgrass increased in the unseeded control and to a lesser extent in the native-only seeded treatments. Recruitment of non-seed-mix native perennials was highest in the unseeded control. Results indicate that postfire seeding has lasting effects on vegetation composition and structure, implying that seed mixes should be carefully formulated to promote long-term management objectives. Seed mixes containing large amounts of competitive introduced species may be especially effective for long-term cheatgrass suppression, but native-only mixes can also serve this purpose to a lesser degree while avoiding drawbacks of non-native species introductions.
Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Summers, Daniel D.; Thompson, Tyler W. 2019. Long-term vegetation recovery and invasive annual suppression in native and introduced postfire seeding treatments. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 72(4): 640-653.