Ecological transformations, also known as state changes, regime shifts or vegetation type conversions, can be caused by many different disturbances including wildfire, climate change, and invasive species, as well as interactions between these drivers (Guiterman et al. 2022; Kerns et al. 2020; Gaertner et al. 2014). Examples of invasive species-mediated transformations in the western US can be seen via the spread of invasive grasses (e.g., cheatgrass, medusahead, ventenata, and bufflegrass) into sagebrush steppe and forest systems (Bradley et al. 2006; Kerns et al 2020). However, The carbon consequences of such transformations are not well documented. In this project, we will 1) generate novel, co-produced research on where in the North Central US ecosystems have experienced transformation due to invasive species and climate change, 2) quantify carbon consequences of this change, and 3) evaluate management practices that enhance carbon storage and improve resilience by engaging the NC RISCC network.
Effects of Ecological Transformation on Wildlife Communities
Ecological transformations affect a broad suite of physical, chemical, and biological properties, including the structure of wildlife communities. In the sagebrush biome, conversion to annual grasslands via species invasions and altered fire regimes poses a threat to native breeding bird communities. Yet, it remains uncertain how these factors individually and interactively affect bird species and communities, challenging avian conservation in the region. This research aims to (1) quantify the responses of species and communities to fire and invasive annual grasses across the sagebrush biome; (2) predict areas of high bird conservation value and assess their transformation status.
Hobart et al in progress (PDF).
2022 Practitioner Survey Report - Coming Soon
This survey expands on results from the Northeast (NE; Beaury et al. 2020), Northwest (NW), and Pacific Islands (PI) RISCC networks’ surveys by assessing practitioner and organizational goals and action in the North Central region. This survey assessed priorities and practices - what stakeholders are doing about invasive species and climate change from either the research or management side - allowing the NC RISCC to better tailor its activities to achieve optimal results for the community.
Related Work by the NC RISCC Team
Miller Hesed et al. (2023) - Synthesis of climate and ecological science to support grassland management priorities in the North Central Region
Fusco et al (2023) - The invasive plant data landscape: A synthesis of spatial data and applications for research and management in the U.S. Landscape Ecology
Fusco et al. (2021) - The human-grass-fire-cycle: how people and invasives co-occur to drive fire regimes
Nagy et al. (2020) - A synthesis of the effects of cheatgrass invasion on US Great Basin carbon storage
Fusco et al. (2019) - Invasive grasses increase fire occurrence and frequency across U.S. ecoregions
Bradley et al. (2018) - Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) distribution in the intermountain Western United States and its relationship to fire frequency, seasonality, and ignitions
Balch et al. (2017) - Human- started fires expand the fire niche across the U.S. (1992-2012)
Schoennagel et al. (2017) - Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes
Allen and Bradley (2016) - Out of the weeds? Reduced plant invasion risk with climate change in the continental United States
Balch et al. (2013) - Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980-2009)
Woolner (unpublished) - Brief on Invasive Species Policy in the U.S.’s North Central Region