Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: THE ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF MEDUSAHEAD IN THE GREAT BASIN AND SURROUNDING ECOSYSTEMS

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Throughout the Great Basin and surrounding ecosystems, a major factor affecting rangeland resources, fires, and watershed functioning is invasion by the winter-annual grass, medusahead. Additionally, private landowners are struggling to integrate land resources into profitable livestock production systems in relatively low value lands where economic options are limited. Medusahead is almost worthless as forage because of its high silica content. Medusahead dominates about 5 million acres throughout this region. Within the sagebrush steppe, medusahead aggressively displaces perennial grasses by preempting resources, and frequent fires destroy the shrub portion of the plant community. Thus, fire facilitates the conversion of rangeland from a perennial-dominated to an annual-dominated system. Once converted, these medusahead-dominated sites reduce plant and animal diversity and richness, reduce suitable habitat for wildlife, accelerate erosion, and alter nutrient cycles, hydrologic cycles, and energy flow. To decrease the ecologic and economic impacts of medusahead, comprehensive management strategies must be developed and implemented. Strategies include prevention of the spread of medusahead, ecologically sound and cost-effective methods for managing medusahead using herbicides, and ecologically based rehabilitation and restoration methods for medusahead-dominated rangeland. The research outlined in this project plan is aimed at producing management tools and information/technology transfer to aid in the restoration and management of public and private rangeland in the Great Basin and surrounding ecosystems dominated and/or threatened by the invasion of medusahead.

This research is relevant to federal agencies, state agencies, county offices, Tribal land management departments, livestock producers, other private landowners, resource consultants, and other scientists. Each customer has had or will have an opportunity to provide input in the research, will provide land access for the research, and will participate as partners in the technology transfer component of the project.

Our anticipated impact will be improved decision-making for private and public land managers related to the prevention of the spread of medusahead, ecologically sound and cost- effective methods for managing medusahead using herbicides, and ecologically based rehabilitation and restoration methods for medusahead dominated rangeland. We aim to test broad theoretical concepts that have potential to provide widely applicable principles for ecologically based management.

This project is aligned with NP 304.


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Year 1 (FY 2005)

Sub-objective 1.1 - Intensity and season of wheatgrass defoliation on medusahead invasion: Site selection; establish plots; initiate clipping treatments.

Sub-objective 1.2 - Functional groups that minimize invasion of medusahead: Site selection; establish plots; initiate glyphosate treatments; remove dead above-ground biomass.

Sub-objective 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 - Predicting ecological and economic thresholds/biomass optimization modeling: Site selection; establish plots; collect baseline pretreatment data; apply Plateau.

Sub-objective 2.4 - Oust or Plateau's effect on native forbs: Site selection; apply treatments.

Sub-objective 3.1 - Effect of Plateau rate and timing on seeded species: Site selection. Establish plots; conduct burn; apply herbicide treatments; seed desired species.

Sub-objective 3.2 - Augmentative restoration: Siet selection; establish plots; apply treatments.

Sub-objective 3.3 - Island seeding: Site selection; establish islands; initiate intensive grazing in adjacent areas; collect baseline species/location inventory.

Year 2 (FY 2006)

Sub-objective 1.1 - Intensity and season of wheatgrass defoliation on medusahead invasion: Post-1st year treatment measurements; continue clipping treatments.

Sub-objective 1.2 - Functional groups that minimize invasion of medusahead: Post-1st year treatment vegetation measurements; continue removal treatments. Sub-objective 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 - Predicting ecological and economic thresholds/biomass optimization modeling: Post-1st year treatment data collection.

Sub-objective 2.4 - Oust or Plateau's effect on native forbs: Collect density data.

Sub-objective 3.1 - Effect of Plateau rate and timing on seeded species: Post-1st year treatment measurements.

Sub-objective 3.2 - Augmentative restoration: Post-1st year treatment measurements; plot maintenance.

Sub-objective 3.3 - Island seeding: Fertilize and water islands as needed; continue intensive grazing.

Year 3 (FY 2007)

Sub-objective 1.1 - Intensity and season of wheatgrass defoliation on medusahead invasion: Post-2nd year treatment measurements; continue clipping treatments.

Sub-objective 1.2 - Functional groups that minimize invasion of medusahead: Post-2nd year treatment vegetation measurements; collect 1st year's soil data; continue removal treatments. Sub-objective 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 - Predicting ecological and economic thresholds/biomass optimization-modeling: Post 2nd-year treatment data collection.

Sub-objective 2.4 - Oust or Plateau's effect on native forbs: Collect density data.

Sub-objective 3.1 - Effect of Plateau rate and timing on seeded species: Post-2nd year treatment measurements.

Sub-objective 3.2 - Augmentative restoration: Post-2nd year treatment measurement; plot maintenance.

Sub-objective 3.3 - Island seeding: Collect species/location inventory.

Year 4 (FY 2008)

Sub-objective 1.1 - Intensity and season of wheatgrass defoliation on medusahead invasion: Post-3rd year treatment measurements; apply final clipping treatments.

Sub-objective 1.2 - Functional groups that minimize invasion of medusahead: Post-3rd year treatment vegetation and soil data collection. Sub-objective 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 - Predicting ecological and economic thresholds/biomass optimization modeling: Post-3rd year treatment data collection.

Sub-objective 2.4 - Oust or Plateau's effect on native forbs: Data analysis; prepare manuscript.

Sub-objective 3.1 - Effect of Plateau rate and timing on seeded species: Data analysis; prepare manuscript.

Sub-objective 3.2 - Augmentative restoration: Post-3rd year treatment measurements; plot maintenance.

Sub-objective 3.3 - Island seeding: Collect species/location inventory.

Year 5 (FY 2009)

Sub-objective 1.1 - Intensity and season of wheatgrass defoliation on medusahead invasion: Data analysis; prepare publication.

Sub-objective 1.2 - Functional groups that minimize invasion of medusahead: Data analysis; prepare publication. Sub-objective 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 - Predicting ecological and economic thresholds/biomass optimization modeling: Data analysis; prepare publication.

Sub-objective 2.4 - Oust or Plateau's effect on native forbs:

Sub-objective 3.1 - Effect of Plateau rate and timing on seeded species:

Sub-objective 3.2 - Augmentative restoration: Data analysis; prepare publication.

Sub-objective 3.3 - Island seeding: Data analysis; prepare publication.


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Since this project was initiated in May 2005 it has no significant accomplishments.


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
None


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
These studies may all potentially benefit small farms (including ranching families and holders of grazing allotments on public land) by maintaining the quality and quantity of the forage base, and by increasing the profitability of pasture and hay production.


4d.Progress report.
None


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
This project was initiated in July 2005 and has no fully completed accomplishments.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
In anticipation of our research results, we have facilitated the development of 14 working groups across eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho and have worked with each group to develop a state-of-the-art medusahead management plan for each region. These working groups are ready to incorporate new findings directly into their current management plans. In addition, a ranch scale (5000 acres) demonstration of the best management practices for medusahead has been established.


7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
1) "Attack on medusahead", which is a three component interactive workshop, has been developed and delivered to 14 working groups and 3 Coordinated Weed Management Areas throughout our region.

2) A multi-day workshop and continuing educational program on ecologically-based invasive plant management has been developed and conducted. Participants are from across the western United States.

3) An ecologically-based invasive plant management e-newsletter has been created and offered to managers across the western United States quarterly.


Review Publications
Mangold, J.M., Sheley, R.L., Svejcar, A.J. 2006. Toward ecologically-based invasive plant management on rangeland. Weed Science. 54:597-605.

Sheley, R.L., Laufenberg, S.M. 2006. Restoring species richness and diversity in a russian knapweed-infested riparian plant community using herbicides. Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center. SR1057:36-37.

Sheley, R.L., Carpinelli, M.F. 2005. Creating weed-resistant plant communities using niche-differented nonnative species. Journal of Range Management. 58(5):480-488.

Sheley, R.L., Mangold, J.M., Anderson, J.J. Potential for succesional theory to guide restoration of invasive plant dominated rangeland. Ecological Monographs. 2006. 76(3):365-379.

Pokorny, M.L., Sheley, R.L., Zabinski, C.A., Engel, R.E., Svejcar, A.J., Borkowski, J.J. 2005. Plant functional group diversity as a mechanism for invasion resistance. Restoration Ecology. 13(3):1-12.

Denny, K.M., Sheley, R.L. 2006. Community response of non-target species to herbicide application and removal of the nonindigenous invader. Western North American Naturalist. 66(1):55-63.

Rinella, M.J., Sheley, R.L. 2005. Models that predict invasive weed and grass dynamics: 1. Model development. Weed Science 53:586-593.

Rinella, M.J., Sheley, R.L. 2005. Models that predict invasive weed and grass dynamics: 2. Accuracy evaluation. Weed Science 53:605-614.

Reever Morghan, K.J., Sheley, R.L., Denny, M.K., Pokorny, M.L. 2005. Seed islands may promote establishment and expansion of native species in reclaimed mine sites (Montana). Ecological Restoration. 23(3): 214-215.

Reever Morghan, K.J., Sheley, R.L., Svejcar, A.J. 2006. Viewpoint: Successful Adaptive Management - The Integration of Research and Management. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 59(2):216-219.

Rinella, M.J., Sheley, R.L. 2006. Using light attenuation to estimate leafy spurge impacts on forage production. Rangeland Ecology and Management 59(4):431-437.

Lawrence, R.L., Wood, S.D., Sheley, R.L. 2005. Mapping invasive plants using hyperspectral imagery and Breiman Cutler classifications (RandomForest). Remote Sensing of Environment. 100(2006):356-362.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page