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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: RANGELAND RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Fire Effects on Cover and Dietary Resources of Sage-grouse Habitat

Authors
item Rhodes, Edward -
item Bates, Jonathan
item Sharp, Robert -
item Davies, Kirk

Submitted to: Journal of Wildlife Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 28, 2009
Publication Date: April 29, 2010
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/45228
Citation: Rhodes, E.C., J.D. Bates, R.N. Sharp, and K.W. Davies. 2010. Fire Effects on Cover and Dietary Resources of Sage-grouse Habitat. Journal of Wildlife Management. 74:755-764

Interpretive Summary: Prescribed fire is often applied in rangelands to enhance forage production, reduce woody species and maintain a mosaic pattern of plant community composition that enhances wildlife habitat. We evaluated early successional impacts following prescribed fire in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe on the productivity and nutritional quality of forbs preferred by sage-grouse, the abundance of arthropod orders, and vegetation cover. The main results were: 1) yield and nutritional quality of forbs important in the diet of sage-grouse did not increase following prescribed fall burning; 2) the abundance of Hymenoptera (ants); a significant component in the diet of young sage-grouse, decreased after fire; 3) only perennial grasses and an invasive annual forb, pale alyssum, increased in cover and/or yield after fire; and 4) habitat cover (shrubs and tall herbaceous cover (> 7 inches height) was 50% lower after burning compared to unburned controls. The results indicate that prescribed fire will not improve habitat characteristics for sage-grouse in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe that is already comprised of shrubs, native grasses, and native forbs.

Technical Abstract: Prescribed fire in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) steppe to enhance habitat characteristics for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus Bonaparte), a sagebrush obligate species, has been a subject of increased research emphasis and management concern. We evaluated early successional impacts following prescribed fire in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe on the productivity and nutritional quality of forbs preferred by sage-grouse, the abundance of arthropod orders, and vegetation cover. Forbs are a critical component of sage-grouse diets from pre-laying through brood rearing periods. The yield and nutritional quality of forbs important in the diet of sage-grouse did not increase following prescribed fall burning. The abundance of Hymenoptera, a significant component in the diet of young sage-grouse, decreased after fire. Only perennial grasses and an invasive annual forb, pale alyssum (Alyssum alyssoides Stapf.), increased in cover and/or yield after fire. Habitat cover (shrubs and tall herbaceous cover (> 18cm height)) was reduced and was about 50% lower after burning compared to unburned controls. The results indicate that prescribed fire will not improve habitat characteristics for sage-grouse in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe that is already comprised of shrubs, native grasses, and native forbs.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014
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