Submitted to: Society for Ecological Restoration Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2007
Publication Date: 9/25/2007
Citation: Bates, J.D., Falck, S.J., Rhodes, E. 2007. Impacts of prescribed fire and post-fire grazing to sagebrush steppe vegetation. Society for Ecological Restoration Abstracts [abstract. SS.6.4.
Technical Abstract: Grazing management guidelines often recommend resting sagebrush steppe for two growing seasons following fire in the Intermountain West. The purpose of resting is to let herbaceous vegetation recover and permit surface litter to accumulate for protecting and enhancing soil stability. However, grazing impacts after fire have not been tested at the plant community level. This study evaluated six grazing treatments over four growing seasons after fire on Wyoming big sagebrush steppe in eastern Oregon. Treatments included no grazing on burned and unburned treatments, two summer grazing treatments, and two spring grazing treatments. Treatments were replicated 5 times. Grazing utilization by cattle was 40-50%. Vegetation responses to treatments were evaluated by quantifying plant cover, density and diversity; clipping for standing crop; and measuring perennial grass seed production. Fire impacts to herbaceous perennials were of light to moderate severity. There were no differences found among treatments for plant cover, density, and diversity; nor were there any differences in litter cover or bareground. Herbaceous and perennial grass standing crop was greatest in the ungrazed burn treatment and lowest in the unburned treatment. Perennial grass seed production was highest in the ungrazed burn and summer grazed treatments and lowest in the unburned treatment. Burning did not enhance biomass of perennial forbs important in sage grouse diets but did increase important dietary annual forbs. Moderate grazing applied within the first two years after fire on sagebrush steppe does not limit the ability of herbaceous plants to fully recover or exceed pre-burn levels of productivity.