Post-wildfire seeding in forests of the western United States: An evidence-based review

Donna Peppin, Peter Z. Fulé, Carolyn Hull Sieg, Jan L. Beyers, Molly E. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

Broadcast seeding is one of the most widely used post-wildfire emergency response treatments intended to reduce soil erosion, increase vegetative ground cover, and minimize establishment and spread of non-native plant species. We conducted an evidence-based review to examine the effectiveness and effects of post-wildfire seeding treatments on soil stabilization, non-native species invasion, and plant community recovery in the western U.S. We reviewed 94 scientific papers and agency monitoring reports identified using a systematic search protocol. As sampling designs have become more rigorous in recent years, evidence that seeding is effective in reducing erosion has decreased. Of highest and high quality studies evaluating soil erosion, 92% (11 of 12) were published since 2000, none of which showed an effective result. Before 2000, the majority of the studies (71%) fell into the lowest quality categories, of which 72% showed seeding to be effective. The majority of studies (20 of 27, 74%) evaluating soil erosion in seeded versus unseeded controls showed that seeding did not reduce erosion relative to unseeded controls. Even when seeding significantly increased vegetative cover, seeded sites rarely supported plant cover levels considered sufficient to stabilize soils within the first and second year post-wildfire. Of the 11 studies evaluating seeding effectiveness for curtailing invasions of non-native plant species, an almost equal percentage found seeding treatments to be either effective (54%, 6 studies) or ineffective (45%, 5 studies). However, the majority of effective and ineffective treatments (83% and 80%, respectively) used non-native species. Sixteen of 26 studies (62%) evaluating seeding effects on plant communities reported that seeding suppressed recovery of native plants, although data on long-term impacts of this reduction are limited. The literature suggests that post-wildfire seeding does little to protect soil in the short-term, has equivocal effect on invasion of non-native species, and can have negative effects on native vegetation recovery, although long-term studies are needed to assess lasting impacts of seeded species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-586
Number of pages14
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume260
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010

Keywords

  • Invasive species
  • Plant community recovery
  • Post-wildfire rehabilitation
  • Soil stabilization
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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