Cheatgrass is an invasive plant wreaking havoc on ecosystems and increasing the risk and intensity of wildfires in Nevada.
But just what makes such a small grass such a big problem? Cheatgrass harms our ecosystems and is incredibly difficult to remove, says plant ecologist Dr. Hall Cushman, of the University of Nevada, Reno.
“Cheatgrass invades, increases the intensity and frequency of fires, and then causes more cheatgrass to dominate the system,” says Cushman.
The plant produces massive amounts of tiny seeds that disperse across the landscape; these seeds thrive in disturbed spaces like near roadways or in burned landscapes. This proliferation of cheatgrass creates a grass-fire cycle that results in hotter fires, which lead to perfect conditions for growing more cheatgrass, Cushman explains.