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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of Wildlife Utilization and Grass Seeding Rates on Big Sagebrush Growth and Survival on Reclaimed Mined Lands

Authors
item Partlow, K - UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
item Olson, R - UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
item Schuman, Gerald
item Belden, S - PEABODY ENERGY CO.

Submitted to: Wildland Shrub Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: September 3, 2003
Publication Date: February 1, 2004
Citation: Partlow, K.A., Olson, R.A., Schuman, G.E., Belden, S.E. 2004. Effects of wildlife utilization and grass seeding rates on big sagebrush growth and survival on reclaimed mined lands. Wildland Shrub Symposium Proceedings.

Interpretive Summary: Wyoming big sagebrush if present on pre-mined ecosystems must be re-established in the reclamation process for these lands to be considered successful reclaimed. In recent years, research has greatly increased our knowledge as it relates to sagebrush re-establishment; however, ensuring long-term survival of big sagebrush on these reclaimed lands has proven more difficult. Use of a large wildlife exclosure on a portion of one of our previous research projects where we were assessing cultural methods for Wyoming big sagebrush establishment, we were able to quantify the effects of over utilization of big sagebrush by wildlife. This research has shown that excessive browse/utilization of these young shrub seedlings by wildlife (rabbits, deer, antelope) can greatly influence their survival. Length of leaders (stem) averaged 9.4 mm outside of the exclosure where wildlife were unable to browse the shrub seedlings, compared to 46.6 mm inside the exclosure, just 22 months after construction of the exclosure. Outside of the exclosure all of the big sagebrush seedlings exhibited browse compared to none inside of the exclosure. Four of the 72 plants marked inside the exclosure died over a 2 yr period whereas 24 of the 72 marked plants outside of the exclosure died during this period. Wildlife browse can have a significant affect on growth and survival of Wyoming big sagebrush on reclaimed mined lands. Some practices to manage wildlife numbers on the mine area may be required to ensure the long-term survival and maturation of these newly established shrub seedlings.

Technical Abstract: Ensuring Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) survival remains a challenge years after initial re-establishment on reclaimed mined lands. Wildlife utilization of big sagebrush can be a major factor influencing its survival. A wildlife-proof exclosure was erected on a portion of an existing sagebrush establishment research site initiated by Schuman and others (1998) in 1990 at the North Antelope/Rochelle Complex mine in northeastern Wyoming. Investigations focused on the effects of wildlife utilization of big sagebrush as affected by grass seeding rates of the original study and the newly constructed exclosure. Results indicate no significant differences in big sagebrush density between grass seeding rates or inside versus outside the exclosure. Significantly greater big sagebrush leader growth occurred inside compared to outside the exclosure for all sample periods. Mean leader length of big sagebrush inside the exclosure in April 2002 was 46.4 mm compared to 9.4 mm outside. Wildlife browsing occurred on 100% of the big sagebrush plants outside the exclosure in 2002. Future data collection comparing the exclosed and non-exclosed plots will provide further information of wildlife utilization impacts on big sagebrush establishment on reclaimed mined lands.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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