Sagebrush Research Made Highly Accessible in 2018 Report

The U.S. Geological Survey produces an annual report round up their research from 2018 on sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystem.

Over 350 species of plants and animals, including the greater sage-grouse, are dependent on the sagebrush ecosystem, which extends across a large portion of the Western United States. Increasing knowledge about how these species and the sagebrush ecosystem respond to fire, exotic plant invasions, human land uses, and management actions can inform and improve strategies to maintain existing areas of intact sagebrush and restore degraded landscapes. The USGS has a broad research program focused on providing the science needed to inform these strategies and to help land and resource managers within the U.S. Department of the Interior and other Federal, State, and local agencies as they work towards sustainable sage-grouse populations and restored landscapes for the broad range of uses critical to stakeholders in the western United States. USGS sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystem research is aligned with priority needs outlined in the “Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan” (Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan Team, 2016).

This annual report contains descriptions of research projects that are ongoing or were active during 2018 and is organized into five thematic areas: Fire; Invasive Species; Restoration; Sagebrush, Sage-Grouse, and Other Sagebrush-Associated Species; and Climate and Weather. Each of these thematic areas have significant bodies of research, which is summarized in this report, linked to full papers, and with the lead author’s contact made easily accessible.

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Fire is a significant threat to maintaining a large contiguous sagebrush ecosystem, and this threat has been intensifying owing to increases in highly flammable invasive annual grasses. USGS scientists are addressing a number of science needs including determining the effects and effectiveness of fuel treatments, understanding historic fire regimes in the sagebrush ecosystem, and assessing strategies to improve post-fire management actions.

Invasive Species

Invasive plant species, primarily cheatgrass, are a significant threat to the sagebrush ecosystem by increasing fire frequency and competition with native plant species. USGS scientists are (1) addressing the need to develop and assess prevention, eradication, and control measures for invasive plant species; (2) determining the factors that influence invasive plant species distributions; and (3) developing maps to inform early detection and other control measures.


Restoration of sagebrush habitats following stressors, including wildfire, invasive species, and numerous disturbance types, is important for maintaining the sagebrush ecosystem. USGS scientists are conducting a range of studies including assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of restoration actions and determining factors that increase their success.

Sagebrush, Sage-Grouse, and Other Sagebrush-Associated Species

Efforts to maintain and improve conditions for sage-grouse depend on understanding the behavior, habitat use, and population structure of the species. Additionally, holistically understanding the dynamics within the sagebrush ecosystem can help land managers apply strategies to maintain the ecosystem and the plants and wildlife that depend on it. USGS scientists are conducting research to inform management of the sage-grouse and the sagebrush ecosystem, including development of sage-grouse monitoring and population analysis tools, maps of sagebrush ecosystem components, and improved ecological understanding of sagebrush-associated species.

Weather and Climate

Long-term climate and short-term weather patterns influence vegetation patterns across the sagebrush ecosystem and can influence the outcomes of restoration actions. USGS scientists are conducting research to increase the understanding of variables that control seeding success, inform development of climate adaptation strategies, and improve the collection of locally appropriate seeds for use land management activities.