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Title: Sagebrush Ecosystems Under Fire

Since settlement of the western United States began, sagebrush (Artemisia L. spp.) ecosystems have decreased both in quantity and quality. Originally encompassing up to 150 million acres in the West, the “interminable fields” of sage described by early explorers (Fremont 1845) have been degraded and often eliminated by conversion to agriculture, urbanization, livestock grazing, invasion by alien plants, and alteration of wildfire cycles (Hann et al. 1997; West 1999). More than half of the original sagebrush steppe ecosystems in Washington have been converted to agriculture and many of the remaining stands of sagebrush are degraded by invasion of exotic annuals such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.). Today, sagebrush ecosystems are considered to be one of the most imperiled in the United States (Noss, LeRoe and Scott 1995), and more than 350 sagebrush-associated plants and animals have been identified as species of conservation concern (Suring et al. 2005; Wisdom et al. 2005). The increasing frequency of wildfire in sagebrush-dominated landscapes is one of the greatest threats to these habitats and also presents one of the most difficult to control.
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Douglasia, 38(4) (Winter 2014)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
Sagebrush; Ecosystems; invasion; steppe