Restoration of native perennials in a California annual grassland after prescribed spring burning and solarization

Andrew B. Moyes, Martha S. Witter, John A. Gamon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Grasslands dominated by exotic annual grasses have replaced native perennial vegetation types in vast areas of California. Prescribed spring fires can cause a temporary replacement of exotic annual grasses by native and non-native forbs, but generally do not lead to recovery of native perennials, especially where these have been entirely displaced for many years. Successful reintroduction of perennial species after fire depends on establishment in the postfire environment. We studied the effects of vegetation changes after an April fire on competition for soil moisture, a key factor in exotic annual grass dominance. As an alternative to fire, solarization effectively kills seeds of most plant species but with a high labor investment per area. We compared the burn to solarization in a study of establishment and growth of seeds and transplants of the native perennial grass Purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra) and coastal sage species California sagebrush (Artemisia californica). After the fire, initial seed bank and seedling densities and regular percent cover and soil moisture (0-20 cm) data were collected in burned and unburned areas. Burned areas had 96% fewer viable seeds of the dominant annual grass, Ripgut brome (Bromus diandrus), leading to replacement by forbs from the seed bank, especially non-native Black mustard (Brassica nigra). In the early growing season, B. diandrus dominating unburned areas consistently depleted soil moisture to a greater extent between rains than forbs in burned areas. However, B. diandrus senesced early, leaving more moisture available in unburned areas after late-season rains. Nassella pulchra and A. californica established better on plots treated with fire and/or solarization than on untreated plots. We conclude that both spring burns and solarization can produce conditions where native perennials can establish in annual grasslands. However, the relative contribution of these treatments to restoration appears to depend on the native species being reintroduced, and the long-term success of these initial restoration experiments remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-666
Number of pages8
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Annual grassland
  • Artemisia californica
  • Brassica nigra
  • Bromus diandrus
  • Fire
  • Nassella
  • Pulchra
  • Restoration
  • Seed bank
  • Soil inorganic nitrogen
  • Soil moisture
  • Solarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Restoration of native perennials in a California annual grassland after prescribed spring burning and solarization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this