Non-native plant invasion after fire in western USA varies by functional type and with climate

Biological Invasions
By: , and 



Invasions by non-native plant species after fire can negatively affect important ecosystem services and lead to invasion-fire cycles that further degrade ecosystems. The relationship between fire and plant invasion is complex, and the risk of invasion varies greatly between functional types and across geographic scales. Here, we examined patterns and predictors of non-native plant invasion following fire across the western United States. We specifically analyzed how the abundance of non-native plants after fire was related to fire characteristics and environmental conditions, such as climate, soil, and topography, in 26,729 vegetation plots from government networks and individual studies. Non-native plant cover was higher in plots measured after wildfires compared to prescribed burns or unburned plots. The post-fire cover of non-native species varied by plant functional type, and only the cover of short-lived (i.e., annual and biennial) forbs and short-lived C3 grasses was significantly higher in burned plots compared to unburned plots. Cool-season short-lived grasses composed most of the non-native post-fire vegetation, with cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) being the most recorded species in the dataset. Climate variables were the most influential predictors of the cover of non-native short-lived grasses and forbs after fires, with invasion being more common in areas with drier summers and a higher proportion of yearly precipitation falling in October through March. Models using future projected climate for mid (2041–2070) and end (2071–2100) of century showed a potential for increasing post-fire invasion risk at higher elevations and latitudes. These findings highlight priorities for mitigation, monitoring, and restoration efforts to reduce post-fire plant invasion risk across the western United States.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Non-native plant invasion after fire in western USA varies by functional type and with climate
Series title Biological Invasions
DOI 10.1007/s10530-023-03235-9
Volume 26
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 23 p.
First page 1157
Last page 1179
Country United States
Other Geospatial Western United States
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