Cheatgrass Dynamics Following Wildfire on a Sagebrush Semidesert Site in Central Utah

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings-ecology and management of annual rangelands; 1992 May 18-21; Boise, ID


Ogden Utah


General Technical Report INT-GTR-313


S.B. Monsen and S.G. Kitchen

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Most vegetation studies tend to be short term and determine the status of communities at a single instance in time. Year-to-year and longer term environmental fluctuations, together with internally driven changes in vegetation, require studies conducted over periods of decades for a full understanding of the vegetation dynamics. This study considers 11 years of data from plots with burnt I ungrazed, burnt I grazed, and unburnt I grazed histories at an initially relict sagebrush steppe site near Mills in central Utah. Cover data were collected near the end of each growing season using a gimbeled point technique. All burnt plots showed a complete reduction in sagebrush cover, and increased cover by native perennial bunchgrasses (on a percentage basis). All monitored plots showed considerable increase in cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) during the initial 2 years, followed by a 2-year period of rapid reduction in cover. The ensuing 3 years show considerable year-to-year fluctuation in cover by cheatgrass. The final years of monitoring show a negligible presence of cheatgrass. These results deviate from commonly held notions that the presence of cheatgrass dictates irreversible change resulting in continued cheatgrass dominance. All treatment combinations involving burning showed similar, higher magnitudes of cheatgrass cover regardless of livestock grazing or not, negating conclusions derived from other, shorter term studies.