Fire & Climate
Wildfire size and frequency have increased in the western United States since the 1950s, but it is unclear how seeding treatments have altered fire regimes in arid steppe systems. We analyzed how the number of fires since 1955 and the fire return interval and frequency between 1995 and 2015 responded to seeding treatments, anthropogenic features, and abiotic landscape variables in Wyoming big sagebrush ecosystems. Arid sites had more fires than mesic sites and fire return intervals were shortest on locations first treated between 1975 and 2000. Sites drill seeded before the most recent fire had fewer, less frequent fires with longer fire return intervals (15-20 years) than aerially seeded sites (intervals of 5-8 years). The response of fire regime variables at unseeded sites fell between those of aerial and drill seeding. Increased moisture availability resulted in decreased fire frequency between 1994 and 2014 and the total number of fires since 1955 on sites with unseeded and aerially pre-fire seeding, but fire regimes did not change when drill seeded. Greater annual grass biomass likely contributed to frequent fires in the arid region. In Wyoming big sagebrush steppe, drill seeding treatments reduced wildfire risk relative to aerial seeded or unseeded sites.