Cheatgrass: Cheating the West!

Project Team: Great Basin Climate Team
Team Location: NASA Ames Research Center, Mountainview, California

This is an example of several data layers used to perform an analysis on the relationship between cheatgrass and fire in the Great Basin. Image Credit: Great Basin Climate Team.

This is an example of several data layers used to perform an analysis on the relationship between cheatgrass and fire in the Great Basin. Image Credit: Great Basin Climate Team.

Authors:
Esther Essoudry
Oliwia Baney
Cheryl Cary

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Juan Torrez-Perez (Bay Area Environmental Research Institute)

Past/Other Contributors:
Mark Coca (Bureau of Land Management)
Todd Hopkins (Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative)
Erica Fleishman (University of California, Davis)
Lynn Fenstermaker (Desert Research Institute)
Bruce Wylie (U.S. Geological Survey)
Steve Boyte (U.S. Geological Survey)

Abstract:
The Great Basin ecoregion in the western United States represents one of the last large expanses of wild lands in the nation. However, due to drought, invasive species encroachment, and climatic variation, it is currently facing significant ecological changes. Of particular concern is the spread of the invasive species, Bromus tectorum, or cheatgrass, which has the ability to displace ecologically crucial native plants such as sagebrush. Sagebrush-dominated shrubsteppe is home to the Greater Sage-Grouse, which is under consideration for federal protection. Additionally, extreme precipitation coupled with increases in frequency, duration, and magnitude of fire events may lead to significant increases of cheatgrass inducing ecological and economic impacts in the region over time. For this study, we analyzed the northern 30 percent of the Great Basin ecoregion using Landsat 7 and 8 imagery, modeled geospatial data, and spatial statistics. This project produced a set of time series maps and multivariate graphs correlating annual percent change in cheatgrass and burn severity. Time series correlations also included historical precipitation, temperature, and soil water storage provided by the Basin Characterization Model (BCM). This project also provided a set of geospatial analysis tools as a low-cost solution to assess landscape conditions, along with a repeatable methodology for monitoring cheatgrass response to fire under different climate scenarios. These products allow researchers and land managers to focus more on conservation efforts by quantifying and mitigating these changes in the northern Great Basin.

 

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