Cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) invasibility represents a serious threat to natural ecosystems dominated by sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Ecosystem susceptibility to annual grass invasion seems to be driven by specific biophysical conditions. The study was conducted in Rich County, Utah, where cheat grass invasion is not yet an apparent problem, but an imminent invasion might be just a matter of time (temporal scale) to meet spatial variations in environmental conditions (spatial scale). Literature review and expert knowledge were used to define biophysical variables and their respective suitability ranges of where cheat grass takeover might occur. GIS, remote sensing and logistic regression-statistical analyses were employed to estimate probability of cheat grass invasion along environmental gradients. GIS procedures were used to spatially predict areas prone to be invaded by cheat grass under present climatic conditions (model prediction power was 47 percent). Afterwards, simulated climatic change projections (for 2099 year) from the Community Climatic System Model (CCSM-3) were used to model the invasibility risk of cheat grass. The 2099 cheat grass prediction map showed a favorable reduction of around 25 percent in the areas affected by cheat grass invasion, assuming that climate changes occurred as predicted by the CCSM model. The location of highly predisposed areas can be useful to alert managers and define where resources might be allocated to reduce a potential invasion and preserve native rangeland ecosystems.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/neil_west/9/