Peavine Wildfire Restoration Research

Open space in northern Nevada is subject to frequent intense fires. This phenomenon continues the cycle of invasive weed establishment and persistence, damages the soil ecosystem, contributes to soil erosion, and limits the re-establishment of sustainable native plant communities. In 2009, Washoe County Department of Regional Parks and Open Space (Washoe County) received funding through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for restoration of fire-impacted, non-federally owned properties. As part of the restoration work, Western Botanical Services Inc. (WBS) assisted with design and oversight of the installation of a 2.5-acre test plot in Peavine Canyon in April 2011. The purpose of the experiment was to test the efficacy of coated seed to enhance germination and plant establishment accompanied with herbicides to control weeds.

Preliminary monitoring in 2011 and 2012 included reconnaissance and cover analysis. No new germination was noted from the species seeded in 2011. In both 2011 and 2012, WBS observed a marked increase in plant growth and diversity from remnant plants released from weed competition in comparison to the surrounding untreated area.

In 2013, WBS conducted detailed surveys and data collection for all 48 plots including vegetative cover (point intercept method), root harvest of cheatgrass and squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) to determine root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, shoot collection of the same two species for analysis of nutrient uptake (N, P, and K), and soil analysis. Preliminary results indicated no significant difference among treatment types and N, P and K uptake in leaf tissue. Cheatgrass cover was significantly higher in the non-Imazapic control than all other treatments. The most cost effective means of native plant recovery may be the proper use of herbicides.