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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: Vegetation Characteristics of Mountain and Wyoming Big Sagebrush Plant Communities in the Northern Great Basin

Authors
item Davies, Kirk
item Bates, Jonathan

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 17, 2010
Publication Date: July 19, 2010
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/45171
Citation: Davies, K.W., Bates, J.D. 2010. VEGETATION CHARACTERISTICS OF MOUNTAIN AND WYOMING BIG SAGEBRUSH PLANT COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN GREAT BASIN. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 63(4):461-466

Interpretive Summary: Mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities occur across large expanses of the western United States and have considerable variation in the environmental conditions they occupy. However, wildlife and land management guidelines frequently do not differentiate between these two plant communities, because information detailing differences in their vegetation characteristics is lacking. We quantified vegetation characteristic differences between mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities in the northern Great Basin. In general, mountain big sagebrush plant communities were more diverse and had greater vegetation cover, density, and biomass production than Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. Sagebrush cover averaged 2.4-fold higher in mountain big sagebrush plant communities. Perennial forb density and cover were 3.8 and 5.6-fold greater, respectively, in mountain big sagebrush compared to Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. The results of this study suggest that management guidelines for grazing, wildlife habitat, and other uses should differentiate between mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities.

Technical Abstract: Dominant plant species are often used as indicators of site potential in forest and rangelands. However, subspecies of dominant vegetation often indicate different site characteristics and therefore, may be more useful indicators of plant community potential and provide more precise information for management. Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) occurs across large expanses of the western United States. Common subspecies of big sagebrush have considerable variation in the types of sites they occupy, but information that quantifies differences in their vegetation characteristics is lacking. Consequently, wildlife and land management guidelines frequently do not differentiate between subspecies of big sagebrush. To quantify vegetation characteristics between two common subspecies of big sagebrush, we sampled 106 intact big sagebrush plant communities. Half of the sampled plant communities were Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata spp. wyomingensis (Beetle & A. Young) S.L. Welsh) plant communities and the other half were mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata spp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle) plant communities. In general, mountain big sagebrush plant communities were more diverse and had greater vegetation cover, density, and biomass production than Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. Sagebrush cover was, on average, 2.4-fold higher in mountain big sagebrush plant communities. Perennial forb density and cover were 3.8 and 5.6-fold greater in mountain compared to Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. Total herbaceous biomass production was approximately 2-fold greater in mountain than Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. The results of this study suggest that management guidelines for grazing, wildlife habitat, and other uses should recognize widespread subspecies as indicators of differences in site potentials.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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