Burning and Seeding Influence Soil Surface Morphology in an Artemisia Shrubland in Southern Idaho

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We compared the morphology of soil surfaces dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush at burned-seeded, burned-unseeded, and unburned sites in southern Idaho. Both burning and seeding resulted in significant changes in soil surface morphology. Unburned sites were dominated by Type I (shrub- and grass tussock-dominant coppice) and Type II (lichen- and moss-covered coppice bench)surfaces, while burned-seeded sites were dominated by Types I, II, and III (bare or lichen-covered microplains between the individual coppices) surfaces. Type V surfaces (severely-disturbed, annual grass-dominant microsites) predominated on the burned-unseeded sites. Burning and subsequent conversion of native shrubland to exotic grassland results in a predominance of Type V surfaces unless seeding is used to reintroduce perennials or the surface is allowed to recover in the absence of subsequent fire and disturbance. The benefits of postfire revegetation and subsequent recovery of soil surfaces conducive to germination and establishment of perennial grass and shrub communities outweigh the initial short-term disturbance associated with drill seeding.