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1 January 2018 Resilience of Sandhills Grassland to Wildfire During Drought
Jack R. Arterburn , Dirac Twidwell , Walter H. Schacht , Carissa L. Wonkka , David A. Wedin
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In the Nebraska Sandhills, one of the largest contiguous grassland ecoregions remaining in North America, sandy textured soils are stabilized by fine root biomass from predominantly warm-season grasses. Concerns over destabilization have led to management that aims to avoid an undesirable state change toward mobile sand dunes. In 2012, the Sandhills experienced extreme drought conditions that coincided with the worst wildfire year on state record. According to state-and-transition models and ecosystem managers, the combination of wildfire and drought conditions should cause a state transition due to a lack of recovery of grassland vegetation and a loss of sand dune stability. To test this hypothesis, we implemented a time-since-fire study to track biomass recovery of Sandhills grassland vegetation following a wildfire on The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve in burned and unburned areas. Two yr following the wildfire, aboveground herbaceous biomass in burned areas had recovered to levels that did not differ from unburned areas, maintaining the stability of the sand dunes. This provides evidence that counters current land management frameworks that portray Sandhills grassland as highly vulnerable to destabilization when wildfires occur during severe drought conditions.

© 2017 The Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jack R. Arterburn , Dirac Twidwell , Walter H. Schacht , Carissa L. Wonkka , and David A. Wedin "Resilience of Sandhills Grassland to Wildfire During Drought ," Rangeland Ecology and Management 71(1), 53-57, (1 January 2018).
Received: 1 December 2016; Accepted: 1 July 2017; Published: 1 January 2018

sandy soil ecosystem
state-and-transition model
USDA Ecological Site Description Database
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