Browsing Rangeland Ecology & Management, Volume 63, Number 4 (July 2010) by Title
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Seedling Interference and Niche Differentiation Between Crested Wheatgrass and Contrasting Native Great Basin SpeciesInterference from crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertn.) seedlings is considered a major obstacle to native species establishment in rangeland ecosystems; however, estimates of interference at variable seedling densities have not been defined fully. We conducted greenhouse experiments using an addition-series design to characterize interference between crested wheatgrass and four key native species. Crested wheatgrass strongly interfered with the aboveground growth of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis Beetle Young), rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa [Pall. ex Pursh] G. L. Nesom Baird subsp. consimilis [Greene] G. L. Nesom Baird), and to a lesser extent with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata [Pursh] A. Löve). Alternatively, bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey subsp. californicus [J. G. Sm.] Barkworth) and crested wheatgrass had similar effects on each other’s growth, and interference ratios were near 1.0. Results indicate that the native grasses more readily establish in synchrony with crested wheatgrass than these native shrubs, but that once established, the native shrubs are more likely to coexist and persist with crested wheatgrass because of high niche differentiation (e.g., not limited by the same resource). Results also suggest that developing strategies to minimize interference from crested wheatgrass seedlings emerging from seed banks will enhance the establishment of native species seeded into crested wheatgrass-dominated communities.
Vegetation Characteristics of Mountain and Wyoming Big Sagebrush Plant Communities in the Northern Great BasinDominant plant species are often used as indicators of site potential in forest and rangelands. However, subspecies of dominant vegetation often indicate different site characteristics and, therefore, may be more useful indicators of plant community potential and provide more precise information for management. Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) occurs across large expanses of the western United States. Common subspecies of big sagebrush have considerable variation in the types of sites they occupy, but information that quantifies differences in their vegetation characteristics is lacking. Consequently, wildlife and land management guidelines frequently do not differentiate between subspecies of big sagebrush. To quantify vegetation characteristics between two common subspecies of big sagebrush, we sampled 106 intact big sagebrush plant communities. Half of the sampled plant communities were Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. wyomingensis [Beetle A. Young] S. L. Welsh) plant communities, and the other half were mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. vaseyana [Rydb.] Beetle) plant communities. In general, mountain big sagebrush plant communities were more diverse and had greater vegetation cover, density, and biomass production than Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. Sagebrush cover was, on average, 2.4-fold higher in mountain big sagebrush plant communities. Perennial forb density and cover were 3.8- and 5.6-fold greater in mountain compared to Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. Total herbaceous biomass production was approximately twofold greater in mountain than Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities. The results of this study suggest that management guidelines for grazing, wildlife habitat, and other uses should recognize widespread subspecies as indicators of differences in site potentials.