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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: RANGELAND RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT Title: The influence of plant removal on succession in wyoming big sagebrush

Authors
item Boyd, Chad
item Svejcar, Anthony

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 16, 2011
Publication Date: April 6, 2011
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/49382
Citation: Boyd, C.S., Svejcar, A.J. 2011. The influence of plant removal on succession in wyoming big sagebrush. Journal of Arid Environments. 75:734-741.

Interpretive Summary: Restoration and post-disturbance rehabilitation of arid sagebrush plant communities is complicated by wide-variation in pre-restoration/rehabilitation plant composition. We identified the rate of short-term (<10 years) floristic changes following removal of plant functional groups in Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) plant communities and used a regression approach to model recovery time. Results indicated that post-disturbance functional group composition was strongly influenced by the removal treatments over the duration of our seven-year study. Restoring shrubs in areas dominated by perennial grasses may require targeted reductions of competing perennial grasses and, conversely, shrub dominance may also limit perennial grass reestablishment.

Technical Abstract: Predicting plant community response following disturbance is a major hurdle facing ecologists. The objective of our study was to identify the rate of short-term (<10 years) floristic changes following removal of plant functional groups in Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) plant communities. We used a randomized block design with 5 blocks. Response data were collected in 1999-2005. Treatments imposed on 6 x 6 m plots were 1) complete removal of all plant functional groups, 2) perennial grass removal, 3) shrub removal and 4) control (i.e., unaltered). Removal was accomplished by hand application of glyphosate herbicide to the functional group targeted for elimination. We found that post-disturbance functional group composition was strongly influenced by the removal treatments. On shrub removal plots, we estimated that shrub recovery (to unaltered levels) would take over 30 years. On perennial grass removal plots perennial grass recovery would take 19 years. When all functional groups were removed, cover of annual forbs, annual grasses, and shrubs recovered within 8 years, but perennial grass recovery took 30 years. Perennial forbs were unaffected (p > 0.05) by treatment. Our results can be used as baseline data to guide and prioritize restoration activities in Wyoming big sagebrush communities. The fact that natural recovery of some components occurred within a relatively short post-disturbance time interval (i.e. <10 years) suggests that natural recovery may be sufficient for some functional groups. Restoring shrubs in areas dominated by perennial grasses may require targeted reductions of competing perennial grasses. Conversely, shrub dominance may also limit perennial grass reestablishment.

Last Modified: 12/26/2014
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