Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 1853–1862 | Cite as

The importance of disturbance by fire and other abiotic and biotic factors in driving cheatgrass invasion varies based on invasion stage

Original Paper


Disturbances create fluctuations in resource availability that alter abiotic and biotic constraints. Exotic invader response may be due to multiple factors related to disturbance regimes and complex interactions between other small- and large-scale abiotic and biotic processes that may vary across invasion stages. We explore how cheatgrass responds to both frequency and season of prescribed burning for a 10-year period in ponderosa pine forested stands. To understand interactions of fire disturbance, other abiotic factors, biotic resistance, and propagule pressure, we use long-term data from different spatial scales representing different invasion stages (local establishment or spread and broader scale extent/impact) to model cheatgrass dynamics. We found that after 10 years, cheatgrass cover increased with fall burning regardless of burn frequency (1 burn vs. 3 burns). There was no evidence that cheatgrass invasion is decreasing through time even in areas burned only once. Factors important for explaining local fine-scale cheatgrass establishment and spread, and broader scale extent/impact varied. The spatial extent of the first burns facilitated fine-scale cheatgrass establishment while bare soil cover constrained establishment. Biotic resistance, in the form of native annual forb cover, constrained fine-scale cheatgrass spread. Initial cheatgrass abundance in 2002, a factor related to propagule pressure, was key for explaining the broader scale extent/impact of cheatgrass by 2012. Biotic resistance, in the form of native perennial grass cover, constrained extent/impact but only when initial cheatgrass abundance was low. Our findings regarding factors affecting invasion dynamics may be useful to consider for future restoration and conservation efforts in burned ponderosa pine forests.


Propagule pressure Cheatgrass Bromus tectorum Prescribed fire Burn interval 

Supplementary material

10530_2017_1395_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (320 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 320 kb)
10530_2017_1395_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (94 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 94 kb)
10530_2017_1395_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (30 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 30 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Corvallis Forestry Sciences LaboratoryPacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest ServiceCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of ForestryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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