Post-Fire Restoration

Hi –

For the past two weeks the other interns and I have been working long hours in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. We’re monitoring six large plots in an area of the Hidden Valley that have been burned repeatedly. I learned early in the internship that desert landscapes, once degraded, take a long time to regenerate the diversity and habitat structure once present. In an area that has been repeatedly burned, with a particularly harsh wildfire sweeping through the area in 2011, the native species on the landscape have had little luck regenerating. And in the meantime, of course, invasive species like Bromis grass have taken over the landscape, making it doubly difficult for natives to regenerate.

Needless to say, this area of the Arizona Strip could use a hand in recovering. Two years ago people at the USGS, partnered with the BLM, seeded the area with native species in an attempt to enrich the soil seed bank and test several methods of deploying the seeds. Some study plots were hand seeded, others received seed cookies–a way to hold the native seed together with a cement-like mix in hopes of better germination rates, and still others were sprayed with herbicide, then seeded. In all there are 28 combinations of treatment and seeding methods out there on the landscape. Our job in year two was to identify and count the perennial seedlings coming up in each plot.

After two weeks of working sun up to sun down we finished surveying the plots and are left with a mountain of data. Us interns are eager to get into the analysis to reveal if, at this early point in the project, there are differences between treatments. Based on observations in the field those plots treated with herbicide first seemed to have a greater number of seedlings popping up. Still, many plots remained relatively barren. Some plots had the seed cookies still intact with (viable?) native seeds visible. It will be interesting to see what the data says so far and how the project will progress over its 10-year lifetime.



Sam Somerville

USGS Las Vegas Field Station, Henderson, NV

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