• Outplanting Wyoming Big Sagebrush Following Wildfire: Stock Performance and Economics

      Dettweiler-Robinson, Eva; Bakker, Jonathan D.; Evans, James R.; Newsome, Heidi; Davies, G. Matt; Wirth, Troy A.; Pyke, David A.; Easterly, Richard T.; Salstrom, Debra; Dunwiddie, Peter W. (Society for Range Management, 2013-11-01)
      Finding ecologically and economically effective ways to establish matrix species is often critical for restoration success. Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) historically dominated large areas of western North America, but has been extirpated from many areas by large wildfires; its re-establishment in these areas often requires active management. We evaluated the performance (survival, health) and economic costs of container and bare-root stock based on operational plantings of more than 1.5 million seedlings across 2 200 ha, and compared our plantings with 30 other plantings in which sagebrush survival was tracked for up to 5 yr. Plantings occurred between 2001 and 2007, and included 12 combinations of stock type, planting amendment, and planting year. We monitored 10 500 plants for up to 8 yr after planting. Survival to Year 3 averaged 21% and was higher for container stock (30%) than bare-root stock (17%). Survival did not differ among containerstock plantings, whereas survival of bare-root stock was sometimes enhanced by a hydrogel dip before planting, but not by mycorrhizal amendments. Most mortality occurred during the first year after planting; this period is the greatest barrier to establishment of sagebrush stock. The proportion of healthy stock in Year 1 was positively related to subsequent survival to Year 3. Costs were minimized, and survival maximized, by planting container stock or bare-root stock with a hydrogel dip. Our results indicate that outplanting is an ecologically and economically effective way of establishing Wyoming big sagebrush. However, statistical analyses were limited by the fact that data about initial variables (stock quality, site conditions, weather) were often unrecorded and by the lack of a replicated experimental design. Sharing consistent data and using an experimental approach would help land managers and restoration practitioners maximize the success of outplanting efforts.
    • Performance of Quantitative Vegetation Sampling Methods Across Gradients of Cover in Great Basin Plant Communities

      Pilliod, David S.; Arkle, Robert S. (Society for Range Management, 2013-11-01)
      Resource managers and scientists need efficient, reliable methods for quantifying vegetation to conduct basic research, evaluate land management actions, and monitor trends in habitat conditions. We examined three methods for quantifying vegetation in 1-ha plots among different plant communities in the northern Great Basin: photography-based grid-point intercept (GPI), linepoint intercept (LPI), and point-quarter (PQ). We also evaluated each method for within-plot subsampling adequacy and effort requirements relative to information gain. We found that, for most functional groups, percent cover measurements collected with the use of LPI, GPI, and PQ methods were strongly correlated. These correlations were even stronger when we used data from the upper canopy only (i.e., top “hit” of pin flags) in LPI to estimate cover. PQ was best at quantifying cover of sparse plants such as shrubs in early successional habitats. As cover of a given functional group decreased within plots, the variance of the cover estimate increased substantially, which required more subsamples per plot (i.e., transect lines, quadrats) to achieve reliable precision. For GPI, we found that that six-nine quadrats per hectare were sufficient to characterize the vegetation in most of the plant communities sampled. All three methods reasonably characterized the vegetation in our plots, and each has advantages depending on characteristics of the vegetation, such as cover or heterogeneity, study goals, precision of measurements required, and efficiency needed.
    • Spring Clipping, Fire, and Simulated Increased Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition Effects on Tallgrass Prairie Vegetation

      Smart, Alexander J.; Scott, Tabithia K.; Clay, Sharon A.; Clay, David E.; Ohrtman, Michelle; Mousel, Eric M. (Society for Range Management, 2013-11-01)
      Defoliation aimed at introduced cool-season grasses, which uses similar resources of native grasses, could substantially reduce their competitiveness and improve the quality of the northern tallgrass prairie. The objective was to evaluate the use of early season clipping and fire in conjunction with simulated increased levels of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on foliar canopy cover of tallgrass prairie vegetation. This study was conducted from 2009 to 2012 at two locations in eastern South Dakota. Small plots arranged in a split-plot treatment design were randomized in four complete blocks on a warm-season grass interseeded and a native prairie site in east-central South Dakota. The whole plot consisted of seven treatments: annual clip, biennial clip, triennial clip, annual fire, biennial fire, triennial fire, and undefoliated control. The clip plots consisted of weekly clipping in May to simulate heavy grazing. Fire was applied in late April or early May. The subplot consisted of nitrogen applied at 0 or 15 kg N ha-1 in early June. All treatments were initially applied in 2009. Biennial and triennial treatments were reapplied in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Canopy cover of species/major plant functional groups was estimated in late August/early September. Annual clipping was just as effective as annual fire in increasing native warm-season grass and decreasing introduced cool-season grass cover. Annual defoliation resulted in greater native warm-season grass cover, less introduced coolseason grass cover, and less native cool-season grass cover than biennial or triennial defoliation applications. Low levels of nitrogen did not affect native warm-season grass or introduced cool-season cover for any of the defoliation treatments, but it increased introduced cool-season grass cover in the undefoliated control at the native prairie site. This study supports the hypothesis that appropriately applied management results in consistent desired outcomes regardless of increased simulated atmospheric nitrogen depositions.
    • Stocking Rate and Fuels Reduction Effects on Beef Cattle Diet Composition and Quality

      Clark, Abe; DelCurto, Tim; Vavra, Martin; Dick, Brian L. (Society for Range Management, 2013-11-01)
      An experiment was conducted to evaluate the influence of forest fuels reduction on diet quality, botanical composition, relative preference, and foraging efficiency of beef cattle grazing at different stocking rates. A split plot factorial design was used, with whole plots (3 ha) being fuel reduced or no treatment (control), and split plots (1 ha) within whole plots were grazed to three levels of forage utilization; (low) 3 heifers .  ha-1, (moderate) 6 heifers ha-1, (high) 9 heifers ha-1, with a 48-h grazing duration. Grazing treatments were applied in August of 2005 and 2006. Cattle diet composition and masticate samples were collected during 20-min grazing bouts using six ruminally cannulated cows in each experimental unit. Relative preference indices indicated a strong preference for grass regardless of treatment and stocking rate. Grass consumption was lower in control pastures (P<0.05) and tended (P<0.095) to decrease with increased stocking rates. Shrub use was higher in control pastures displaying a quadratic effect (P<0.05) due to stocking, whereas shrub use increased with stocking rate across all treatments. Cattle grazing control pastures consumed diets higher in crude protein compared to cattle grazing treated pastures (P<0.05). In vitro dry matter digestibility values were lower (P<0.05) in control sites and tended (P=0.10) to decrease with increased stocking rates. In both control and treated pastures, bites per minute and grams consumed per minute declined (P=0.003) with increased stocking, indicating foraging efficiency of cattle decreases with increased stocking rates. Our data indicated cattle grazing late season grand fir habitat types have a strong preference for grasses regardless of treatment or stocking rate. However, as stocking rate increased in both control and treated pastures, grass consumption decreased, shrub consumption increased, and foraging efficiency decreased.
    • Woody Cover and Grass Production in a Mesquite Savanna: Geospatial Relationships and Precipitation

      Ansley, R. J.; Mirik, M.; Heaton, C. B.; Wu, X. B. (Society for Range Management, 2013-11-01)
      Woody plant effects on grass production at specific points in some rangeland savannas may be a function of numerous surrounding woody plants with lateral roots that extend into those patches of grass. This study determined the effects of increasing zones of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) influence on the production of three perennial grass types (C4 shortgrasses, C3 midgrasses, and C4 midgrasses) at specific points in gaps between mesquite trees in each of five years. Mesquite canopy cover was determined by geospatial analysis of aerial images for progressively increasing zones (0-5, 0-10, 0-15, and 0-20 m radius) surrounding each grass production point. The woody cover/grass production relationships were mostly linear for C4 shortgrasses and C3 midgrasses, and mostly a declining exponential curve for C4 midgrasses in all canopy zones, indicating that C4 midgrasses were most sensitive to increasing mesquite cover, especially at covers >30%. The relationship between mesquite cover and C4 shortgrass production was strongest (i.e., highest r2) when the smallest woody cover zones (0-5 and 0-10 m) were included. In contrast, the relationship between cover and C4 midgrass production was strongest when the largest zones (0-15 and 0-20 m) were included. These differences were attributed to an inability of C4 midgrasses to persist in smaller intercanopy gaps resulting from increases in mesquite density and infilling. Annual precipitation and C3 annual grass invasions played a large role in determining the woody cover/grass production relationship for each grass type. This study illustrates the complexity involved in quantifying woody cover/grass production relationships in savanna ecosystems. Maintaining productive stands of C4 midgrasses may be facilitated by maintaining woody cover below 30% threshold levels and possibly by limiting grazing during episodic high rainfall events in midsummer when this grass type becomes somewhat decoupled from woody cover effects.