Excess wildfire, cheatgrass affecting sage-grouse—targeted actions needed

Larger, more frequent wildfires across the Great Basin have contributed significantly to a decline in greater sage-grouse, according to a new study that also indicates that if this trend continues unabated, it could reduce the population of this indicator species to 43 percent of its present numbers.

The culprit, researchers say, is the influx of exotic annual grasses such as cheatgrass that establish after wildfire removes the native plant community, including sagebrush, the plant upon which sage-grouse are dependent for survival.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Great Basin of North America is a vast landscape that is larger than 75 percent of the countries worldwide. It is comprised primarily of a "sagebrush sea" that is threatened by this cycle of wildfire and cheatgrass, according to Christian Hagen, a senior research associate at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.

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