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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #399201

Research Project: Restoration and Conservation of Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Wyoming big sagebrush transplant survival and growth affected by age, season of planting, and competition

item HOLFUS, CORINNA - Oregon State University
item Boyd, Chad
item Rios, Roxanne
item Davies, Kirk
item Copeland, Stella
item MATA-GONZALEZ, RICARDO - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/15/2023
Publication Date: 10/13/2023
Citation: Holfus, C.M., Boyd, C.S., Rios, R.C., Davies, K.W., Copeland, S.M., Mata-Gonzalez, R. 2023. Wyoming big sagebrush transplant survival and growth affected by age, season of planting, and competition. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 92:1-11.

Interpretive Summary: Wyoming big sagebrush in the Great Basin region has decreased dramatically in association with an increased presence of wildfire and invasive annual grasses, and seeding-based restoration techniques for sagebrush have low success rates. We evaluated the use of sagebrush transplants as an alternative to direct seeding with a focus on the effects of transplant age at time of planting, planting season (fall versus spring), and invasive annual grass competition. Our results indicated that a) transplant survival increases with transplant age for very young seedlings (< 12 weeks) but was similar across older age classes, b) fall transplants had lower survival than spring transplants, and c) competition with invasive annual grasses decreased transplant volume and potentially long-term survival. These results suggest that transplant grow-out costs could be significantly reduced by growing out transplants for a minimum of 12 weeks (vs. the traditionally-used 24 weeks), planting in spring, and pre-treatment of invasive annual grasses.

Technical Abstract: Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis [Beetle & A. Young] S. L. Welsh) has decreased from its historic prevalence across the sagebrush steppe in part because of its interaction with invasive annual grasses and the increased wildfire frequency. Restoration of this species is vital to the ecosystem; however, traditional seeding methods such as broadcast or drill seeding have low success rates. Seedling mortality is associated with harsh weather conditions such as freezing temperatures in the winter and extreme temperature and soil moisture conditions during the summer drought. Transplanting sagebrush has greater success by overcoming the bottleneck of early seedling mortality. We tested how sagebrush transplant survival and size (canopy volume) are affected by age at the time of planting (10 classes, 6-24 wk), planting season (fall versus spring), and invasive annual grass competition (low/high) with a randomized factorial design over 2 yr. Survival was lower for age classes under 10 or 12 wk (in yr 1 and 2, respectively) but relatively similar from 12 to 24 wk. Fall-planted transplants had lower survival but increased canopy volume compared with spring-planted transplants. Survival and canopy volume decreased with competition with annual grasses. Our results suggest that land managers should consider planting younger transplants than previously thought and controlling invasive annual grasses before planting sagebrush transplants to increase long-term survival and canopy volume.