TOPIC 2 Resistance and Resilience,
An Introduction: Land Management Tools

This section explores tools available to land managers for adopting resistance and resilience concepts. Scroll down the page to read each sub-section, or click the Land Management Tools drop-down navigation to go directly to a sub-section.

Sage-Grouse Habitat Resistance and Resilience Matrix

To begin, watch Jeanne Chambers discuss how Resistance and Resilience science can help make better management decisions.


  • The efficient and strategic approach to conserve sagebrush ecosystems and sagebrush obligate species requires the ability to:
    • Prioritize management actions that can increase ecosystem resilience to stress and disturbance and resistance to nonnative invasive plants,
    • Identify those locations that provide current or potential sagebrush habitat for focal species, and
    • Efficiently allocate resources to minimize threats and improve habitat conditions.
  • By overlapping the breeding habitat model with three levels of Resistance and Resilience, you create a 9-cell Sage-Grouse Habitat Resistance and Resilience Matrix that provides a decision tool for minimizing fire and cheatgrass risks and provides suggestions on treatment types and opportunities (Chambers et al. 2017, Table 8). Rows show the ecosystem’s relative Resilience to disturbance and Resistance to invasive annual grasses:

    • Row 1 = high resilience and resistance
    • Row 2 = moderate resilience and resistance
    • Row 3 = low resilience and resistance
  • Columns show the landscape-scale sage-grouse breeding habitat probability from the breeding habitat model:

    • Column A = low, 0.25 to < 0.5 probability
    • Column B = moderate, 0.5 to < 0.75 probability
    • Column C = high ≥ 0.75 probability
  • Potential landscape scale management strategies can be determined by considering:

    • Resilience to disturbance and resistance to nonnative invasive plants,
    • Sage-grouse breeding habitat probabilities, and
    • The predominant threats to both sagebrush ecosystems and their associated sage-grouse populations.
  • Areas with a high habitat probability and high Resistance and Resilience (the upper right of the matrix) are likely to recover in a relatively short time period after disturbance and are a low priority for intervention.
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Table 8: Click on the table for a printable PDF version.

  • Areas with low Resistance and Resilience (the bottom row of matrix) that have few native grasses and forbs and high risk of invasive annual grass dominance are unlikely to recover within a desirable time frame and these areas require more proactive and intensive management.
  • In areas that are difficult to restore due to low to moderate resilience, fuel treatments can be placed to minimize fire spread and thereby protect sagebrush habitat.
  • In cooler and moister areas with moderate to high resilience and resistance, mechanical or prescribed fire treatments may be appropriate to prevent conifer expansion and dominance.
  • Because management strategies often cut across multiple program areas for land management agencies, an integrated approach is typically required to address the predominant threats. For example, agency program areas such as invasive plant management, fuels management, range management, wildlife, and others may all contribute to vegetation management strategies designed to address persistent ecosystem and anthropogenic threats.
  • The management strategies associated with the habitat matrix are designed to maintain or restore large contiguous areas of resilient and resistant sagebrush habitat; therefore, the strategies and priorities are applicable to all sagebrush obligate species that benefit from large extents of intact sagebrush habitat. Examples include Brewer’s Sparrow, Sagebrush Sparrow, and Sage Thrasher (Donnelly et al. 2016).
  • For additional information, refer to Chambers et al. (2017).

Delineating Habitats for Targeted Management Intervention

Effective conservation of sagebrush habitat, Greater Sage-Grouse, and other sagebrush obligate species requires an approach that prioritizes the best management practices in the most appropriate places. Chambers et al.
(2017) describe an approach for targeting areas for management. This approach is applicable to conservation of sagebrush obligate species that require large extents of intact sagebrush habitat.
The approach is based on four types of data:

  1. Species distribution and population abundance
  2. Species habitat requirements
  3. Ecosystem resilience and resistance
  4. Persistent and anthropogenic threats

A key intermediate product in this step is shown at right (Chambers et al. 2017, Figure 38) which is the overlay of Resilience and Resistance categories with the probability of suitable habitat for the land planning unit. Note that these are the same nine categories as defined in the Sage-Grouse Habitat Resistance and Resilience Matrix. This intersection provides information on how areas that can support focal species/resources will respond to both disturbance and management treatments, specifically the likelihood of recovery and risk of conversion to undesirable states; this helps target areas for management.

Some examples of how this analysis could be used
(from Chambers et al. 2017):

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Figure 38: Click on map for a printable PDF version.

  • Landscapes with high sage-grouse habitat probabilities and breeding concentration areas may require immediate protective management, such as fire suppression, Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR), conservation easements, etc., regardless of relative resilience and resistance because they currently support high concentrations of birds. In the map, these are areas in the right column (classes 1C, 2C, 3C).
  • Low Resilience and Resistance landscapes with high sage-grouse habitat probabilities and breeding concentration areas may be among the highest priorities for protective management because they have high conservation value but low potential to regain ecosystem functioning after disturbance. In the map, these are areas in class 3C.
  • In contrast, moderate-to-high Resilience and Resistance landscapes with moderate habitat probabilities may be priorities for active management such as conifer removal in areas adjacent to breeding concentration areas or where connectivity could be increased. In the map, these are areas in classes 1B and 2B.

Click Play to learn specific suggestions from Jeanne Chambers on the management and restoration of low Resilience and Resistance areas that may already be converted to invasive annual grasses.


The emphasis at the scale of the land planning area or management planning unit is on maintaining or increasing large contiguous areas of sage-grouse breeding habitat with values in the moderate (50-75%) and especially high (> 75%) probability categories. Resilience to disturbance and Resistance to annual invasive grasses as indicated by soil temperature and moisture regimes is used to determine the most appropriate activities within the different breeding habitat categories. Once target areas and overarching priorities have been identified, more specific management strategies can be determined. Potential treatment areas can be assessed to determine the suitability of an area for treatment and the appropriate treatment methods. Different treatment options exist depending on the resilience and resistance of an area and the predominant threats (Chambers et al. 2017).

This Table illustrates different scenarios which might occur within the matrix, and possible management strategies which could apply to each scenario.

Relative Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Probability

Resilience and Resistance Category A (Low) B (Moderate) C (High)
1 (High)

Scenario 1: phase II juniper encroachment w/ healthy herbaceous understory

Scenario 2: post-fire community w/ healthy native herbaceous composition

  • Chainsaw removal of conifers
  • Passive approach; succession

High sagebrush cover but very limited herbaceous community

  • Mowing to stimulate herbaceous response

Mountain shrub community, mountain sagebrush community

  • Passive management
2 (Moderate) Low sagebrush cover due to energy disturbances
  • Restore disturbance footprints through sagebrush plug planting and drill seeding
Invasive species interspersed with sagebrush, lower sagebrush cover due to equine use
  • Herbicide application
  • Sagebrush plug planting to improve connectivity
Cool and dry Wyomingensis community
  • Install linear fuel breaks to keep fire from these areas
3 (Low) Wyomingensis site 2 months post-fire; Cheatgrass and mustard monoculture
  • Implement post-fire ESR during first post-fire year
  • No action for steady state example
Wyomingensis – grazing effects; low stubble height, patches of annual grassland within sagebrush matrix
  • Adjust grazing prescription
  • Herbicide and seed annual patches
Wyomingensis, native grass and forb
  • Install linear fuel breaks to keep fire from these areas

Informing Monitoring

The Resistance and Resilience matrix can also be used to inform what monitoring is to be conducted in which areas. For example, in this figure (right), given a set of variables, there’s an opportunity to calculate time and costs for improving habitat quality from cell 2A to 2B, or the potential risk of an area classified as a 3C to transition back to a 3B, and so forth. Examples of this evaluation may shed light on the long-term sustainability of restored areas after intensive efforts have subsided (or no actions in the case of natural succession). In addition, areas can be identified that are lost or degraded as a result of disturbance (anthropogenic and natural) and transition to a lower quality cell versus areas that have met habitat requirements either through natural succession (cells 1A, 1B, 1C), or through intensive and proactive restoration actions (such as reseeding).

Monitoring across all cells of this matrix will be important for determining the effects of landscape-scale changes and influences of these changes as patches transition between prioritization cell categories.


However, here are some key points from Mike Pellant’s “Restoration of Sagebrush Ecosystems” course to take into consideration:

  • To reduce cheatgrass fuels on large areas of rangelands you must strategically repeat appropriate grazing practices over a multi-year period over a diverse landscape under widely different climatic conditions.

  • Spring grazing in annual grass dominated areas is the most effective time to reduce cheatgrass fuel loads before the start of the wildfire season.
  • Fall/winter grazing can reduce carryover fuels but not spring production.
  • Scale of fuels management treatments has to be commensurate with the scale of a wildfire.

Score Sheet for Rating Resilience and Resistance

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Click on map for a printable PDF version.

This score sheet is a tool for a rapid site evaluation of Resilience and Resistance and for an area-of-concern that is based largely on three key attributes: soil temperature, available moisture, and pre-fire vegetation. These three attributes are primary drivers of resilience to disturbance or vegetation management and resistance to invasives and are a function of climate, topography, and soils. Scores are based on soil temperature and moisture indicators, pre-fire plant composition, and estimated fire severity.



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Click on map for a printable PDF version.


Explanations of the variables used in the score sheet are shown here
(Miller et al. 2015, Appendix 8b).


Next explore the Case Studies section.