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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335569

Research Project: Invasive Species Assessment and Control to Enhance Sustainability of Great Basin Rangelands

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Natural recruitment of Wyoming big sagebrush in and adjacent to burned areas during an El Nino year

Author
item SMITH, APRIL - University Of Nevada
item DENCKER, CAMIE - University Of Nevada
item Newingham, Beth

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/31/2016
Publication Date: 1/29/2017
Citation: Smith, A., Dencker, C., Newingham, B.A. 2017. Natural recruitment of Wyoming big sagebrush in and adjacent to burned areas during an El Nino year. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. 167.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Wyoming big sagebrush is known to have episodic recruitment, but the driving factors for these recruitment events is poorly understood. Sagebrush is not fire adapted, is a mid to late seral species, and can take multiple decades to reach a similar density of unburned stands. Fire and climate regimes, which also influence these sagebrush plant communities, have greatly changed in the last century. Understanding when and where natural recruitment of sagebrush occurs may shed light on restoration efforts. We assessed recruitment of Wyoming big sagebrush inside and outside of burned areas in western Nevada. For the fall 2015 cohort of seedlings, canopy gap, shrub richness, shrub size class, plant and ground cover, distance to nearest adult sagebrush, and sagebrush juvenile density were measured in summer 2016. In addition, 10 juveniles per plot were tracked for growth and survivorship. At the end of the first year, past fire occurrence was the strongest indicator of juvenile density, with 99% of this year’s cohort located within unburned sagebrush stands. Shrub size class (0.5m-1m) for non-sagebrush shrubs and distance to road were negatively associated with sagebrush juvenile density, while forb total plant richness was positively associated with juvenile density. Sagebrush size class and distance to adults were positively associated with juvenile growth, while gravel cover was negatively associated with juvenile growth. Seedlings will be followed for multiple years to assess growth and survival in relation to these biotic and abiotic variables, as well as climate and soil chemistry. Our results will provide insight into the episodic nature of Wyoming sagebrush recruitment and may assist managers in determining appropriate future vegetation management.