Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/8/2012
Publication Date: 10/3/2011
Citation: Thacker, E.T., Gillen, R., Gunter, S.A., Springer, T.L. 2011. Chemical control of sand sagebrush: implications for lesser prairie chicken habitat (abstract). In: Proceedings 26th Meeting of the Prairie Grouse Technical Council, October 3-6, Hays, KS.
Technical Abstract: Traditional management of sand sagebrush rangelands has emphasized sagebrush control to increase forage for livestock. Concerns over declining lesser prairie–chicken (LPC) populations have lead to increased scrutiny over the use of herbicides to control shrubs. Our objective was to describe changes to LPC habitat following chemical control of sand sagebrush in Northwest Oklahoma. Study pastures ranged in size from 10 to 21 ha. Five pastures were sprayed with 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) in 2003 (RECENT), five were sprayed with 2,4-D in 1984 (OLD), and four received no treatment (SAGE). We measured habitat structure (sagebrush cover, sagebrush density, visual obstruction [VOR], and basal grass cover), and dietary resources (forb density, forb diversity, and grasshopper density) from 2003–2006. OLD and RECENT pastures had less sagebrush (cover and density) and VOR than SAGE pastures. OLD pastures produced more annual forbs than either SAGE or RECENT pastures. However, SAGE pastures had more perennial forbs than RECENT pastures. Forb species diversity and grasshopper density did not increase despite 2,4-D application. 2,4-D reduced protective cover while providing no increase in forb abundance in RECENT pastures; pastures that had not been treated since 1984 (OLD) did have more annual forbs. Our results indicate it may take years to realize increases in annual forbs. However, loss of protective cover may persist for multiple years (20+ years) and removal of sagebrush did not increase forb diversity or grasshopper abundance. Thus, 2,4-D may have limited use as a habitat management tool.