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Interactive effects of fire, native herbivores, and domestic livestock on forage availability and plant community composition
In 2015 we started a long-term exclosure project that will assess impacts of cattle, pronghorn antelope, and small mammal herbivory on plant communities, habitat structure, and livestock production within burned and unburned sites, as well as sites with and without black tailed prairie dogs. At four different sites, 3 sets of 100 x 100m livestock exclosures have been erected: one within the burned area, one within the prairie dog town, and one that is unaffected by wildfire or prairie dogs. Smaller, nested exclosures were constructed inside each main exclosure to exclude pronghorn and small mammals. We are monitoring the plant community within the exclosures and sub-exclosures for community composition, shrub characteristics, vegetation structure, and forage quantity and quality. This work is being done in collaboration with the US Forest Service, private land owners, and Derek Scasta at the University of Wyoming and the UW Agricultural Experiment Station as part of the Thunder Basin Research Initiative.