• Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) Classification Performance Using Hyperspectral and Multispectral Sensors

      Mitchell, Jessica J.; Glenn, Nancy F. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Two demonstration sites in southeast Idaho were used to extend the scope of remote sensing of leafy spurge research toward investigating coarser scale detection limits. Hyperspectral images were obtained to produce baseline leafy spurge maps, from which spatially and/or spectrally degraded images were subsequently derived for comparative purposes with Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM). The baseline presence/absence maps had an overall accuracy of 67% at the Spencer study site and 85% at the Medicine Lodge study site. Unexpectedly high-accuracy results were produced from the images that were spectrally degraded to the bandwidths of Landsat 5 TM, which suggests that high spectral resolution is not critical to leafy spurge detection. However, a classification using a Landsat 5 TM image indicates that the sensor is inadequate for regional distribution monitoring. The differences in results between the actual and degraded images suggest that a sensor with comparable resolutions but improved instrumentation (e.g., signal to noise) may offer an alternative to hyperspectral data for mapping leafy spurge at regional scales. 
    • Multispecies Allometric Models Predict Grass Biomass in Semidesert Rangeland

      Nafus, Aleta M.; McClaran, Mitchel P.; Archer, Steven R.; Throop, Heather L. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Multispecies allometric models to predict grass biomass may increase field study efficiency by eliminating the need for species- specific data. We used field measurements during two growing seasons to develop single-species and multispecies regression models predicting the current year’s aboveground biomass for eight common cespitose grass species. Simple and stepwise regression analyses were based on natural log expressions of biomass, basal diameter, and height, and a dummy variable expression of grazing history. Basal diameter had the strongest relationship with biomass among single-species (adjusted R2 = 0.80 to 0.91) and multispecies (adjusted R2 = 0.85) models. Regression slopes (b) for diameter among single-species (b = 1.01 to 1.49) and the multispecies (b = 1.25) models suggests that biomass will double when diameter increases <75%. Height and grazing history added little predictive value when diameter was already in the model. When applied to actual populations, biomass estimates from multispecies models were within 3-29% of estimates from the single-species models. Although the multispecies biomass-size relationship was robust across the cespitose life-form, users should be cautious about applying our equations to different locations, plant sizes, and population size-structures. 
    • Mycorrhizal Hyphal Length as a Function of Plant Community Richness and Composition in Restored Northern Tallgrass Prairies (USA)

      Bingham, Marcus A.; Biondini, Mario (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      We assessed the total length of external arbuscular mycorrhizal hyphae as a function of plant species and functional form richness in restored northern tallgrass prairies. Total hyphal length increased with species and functional form richness. Hyphal length also increased when plant communities were dominated by species with high root density, high root to shoot ratios, and high nitrogen use efficiency. Hyphal length was positively correlated with the biomass of late successional C4 grasses (Andropogon gerardi Vitman, Panicum virgatum L., Schizachyrium scoparium [Michx.] Nash-Gould, and Sorghastrum nutans L.), which are obligately mycorrhizal and characterized by high root to shoot ratios, and high root surface area per unit of root biomass. We thus conclude that in order to recover extraradical arbuscular mycorrhizal hyphal length in restored northern tallgrass prairies, at least three factors need to be given priority: 1) achieving high levels of species and functional form richness; 2) making sure that late successional C4 grasses are present; and 3) making sure that the seed mixture includes species that are characterized by high root to shoot ratio, high root density, and high nitrogen-use efficiency. 
    • Plant Interspaces Resulting From Contrasting Grazing Management in Northern Mixed-Grass Prairie: Implications for Ecosystem Function

      Derner, Justin D.; Whitman, Ashley J. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      We assessed plant interspaces in July 2007 using continuous line intercepts in twice-replicated pastures of northern mixed-grass prairie with contrasting grazing treatments: 1) long-term (25 yr) heavily grazed, dominated by the bunchgrass blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), and 2) ungrazed, dominated by the rhizomatous grass western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii). The number of plant interspaces was 26% higher in pastures heavily grazed, but the amount of soil surface occupied by plant interspaces was 27% greater without grazing. Plant interspaces were larger without grazing (14.8 +/- 1.2 cm, mean +/- 1 SE) than heavily grazed (8.9 +/- 0.4 cm). Plant interspaces represented 87% and 68% of the total soil surface in the ungrazed and heavily grazed communities, respectively. The percentage of soil surface covered by plant interspaces , 20 cm was higher for the heavily grazed (94%) compared to the ungrazed (79%). Litter cover in the plant interspaces was higher without grazing (8061%) compared to the heavily grazed (57 +/- 3%). Grazing-induced structural changes from a rhizomatous- to a bunchgrass-dominated vegetation community were manifest in the size and distribution of plant interspaces. Ecological consequences for erosion from raindrop impacts in larger plant interspaces in the ungrazed community are likely offset by greater litter cover in these communities; conversely, lower litter cover in heavily grazed pastures may increase erosion potential despite occurrence of smaller plant interspaces and less proportion of the soil surface covered by interspaces. Management practices that increase the cover of litter in plant interspaces should reduce the potential of erosion from water and wind in this semiarid rangeland. 
    • Postfire Succession in Big Sagebrush Steppe With Livestock Grazing

      Bates, Jonathan D.; Rhodes, Edward C.; Davies, Kirk W.; Sharp, Robert (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Prescribed fire in rangeland ecosystems is applied for a variety of management objectives, including enhancing productivity of forage species for domestic livestock. In the big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) steppe of the western United States, fire has been a natural and prescribed disturbance, temporarily shifting vegetation from shrub-grass codominance to grass dominance. There is limited information on the impacts of grazing to community dynamics following fire in big sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated cattle grazing impacts over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. Wyomingensis [Beetle Young] Welsh) steppe in eastern Oregon. Treatments included no grazing on burned and unburned sagebrush steppe, two summer-grazing applications after fire, and two spring-grazing applications after fire. Treatment plots were burned in fall 2002. Grazing trials were applied from 2003 to 2005. Vegetation dynamics in the treatments were evaluated by quantifying herbaceous canopy cover, density, annual yield, and perennial grass seed yield. Seed production was greater in the ungrazed burn treatments than in all burn-grazed treatments; however, these differences did not affect community recovery after fire. Other herbaceous response variables (cover, density, composition, and annual yield), bare ground, and soil surface litter did not differ among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. All burn treatments (grazed and ungrazed) had greater herbaceous cover, herbaceous standing crop, herbaceous annual yield, and grass seed production than the unburned treatment by the second or third year after fire. The results demonstrated that properly applied livestock grazing after low-severity, prescribed fire will not hinder the recovery of herbaceous plant communities in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe. 
    • Practical Challenges in Private Stewardship of Rangeland Ecosystems: Yellow Starthistle Control in Sierra Nevadan Foothills

      Aslan, Clare E.; Hufford, Matthew B.; Epanchin-Niell, Rebecca S.; Port, Jeffrey D.; Sexton, Jason P.; Waring, Timothy M. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Private landowners are often de facto stewards of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, ranchers frequently present the only defense against biological invasions in private rangelands. Although ranchers’ land management goals (e.g., the desire to control invasive species) can be consistent with ecosystem protection, practical constraints often limit their success. Considerable research on the invasive weed, yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis L.), has produced numerous control strategies. Nevertheless, the range of this noxious weed continues to increase. We used surveys and interviews to document the weed control efforts of 202 ranchers and to identify practical limitations to their efficacy. Overall, 86% of ranchers who had experienced yellow starthistle infestation had attempted control, using one or more of 19 methods. Early response reduced negative effects from yellow starthistle. Control methods learned from agricultural advisors were reported more effective than those learned elsewhere. Limitations to yellow starthistle control in our study population resulted from incomplete information regarding control methods, complexity of weed control in heterogeneous landscapes, inconsistent application of methods, and lack of long-term planning for weed control. Such hindrances make it difficult for landowners to implement control methods promoted by researchers. This gap between science and practice contributes to the continued increase of yellow starthistle within the study region. To shrink this gap, researchers and agricultural advisors can incorporate environmental heterogeneity into applied agricultural research, use land stewards’ knowledge and experience, and increase public education. 
    • State-and-Transition Models for Heterogeneous Landscapes: A Strategy for Development and Application

      Bestelmeyer, Brandon T.; Tugel, Arlene J.; Peacock, George L.; Robinett, Daniel G.; Shaver, Pat L.; Brown, Joel R.; Herrick, Jeffrey E.; Sanchez, Homer; Havstad, Kris M. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Interpretation of assessment and monitoring data requires information about how reference conditions and ecological resilience vary in space and time. Reference conditions used as benchmarks are often specified via potential-based land classifications (e.g., ecological sites) that describe the plant communities potentially observed in an area based on soil and climate. State-and-transition models (STMs) coupled to ecological sites specify indicators of ecological resilience and thresholds. Although general concepts surrounding STMs and ecological sites have received increasing attention, strategies to apply and quantify these concepts have not. In this paper, we outline concepts and a practical approach to potential-based land classification and STM development. Quantification emphasizes inventory techniques readily available to natural resource professionals that reveal processes interacting across spatial scales. We recommend a sequence of eight steps for the co-development of ecological sites and STMs, including 1) creation of initial concepts based on literature and workshops; 2) extensive, low-intensity traverses to refine initial concepts and to plan inventory; 3) development of a spatial hierarchy for sampling based on climate, geomorphology, and soils; 4) stratified medium-intensity inventory of plant communities and soils across a broad extent and with large sample sizes; 5) storage of plant and soil data in a single database; 6) model-building and analysis of inventory data to test initial concepts; 7) support and/ or refinement of concepts; and 8) high-intensity characterization and monitoring of states. We offer a simple example of how data assembled via our sequence are used to refine ecological site classes and STMs. The linkage of inventory to expert knowledge and site-based mechanistic experiments and monitoring provides a powerful means for specifying management hypotheses and, ultimately, promoting resilience in grassland, shrubland, savanna, and forest ecosystems. 
    • Vegetation Responses to Prescribed Burning of Grazed Shortgrass Steppe

      Augustine, David J.; Milchunas, Daniel G. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Over the past century, fire has been widely suppressed in the western Great Plains, in part because of the potential negative effects on forage production for livestock. More recently, interest in the use of prescribed fire in shortgrass steppe has increased because of the potential applications for wildlife management, control of unpalatable plant species, and restoration of historic disturbance regimes. We studied the effects of prescribed burns conducted during late winter on herbaceous production, forage nitrogen content, and plant species composition of shortgrass steppe on the Pawnee National Grassland in northeastern Colorado. Late-winter burns conducted in moderately grazed sites under a wide range of precipitation conditions during 1997-2001 did not negatively affect herbaceous production in either the first or the second postburn growing season. Burning followed by a severe drought in 2002 reduced production by 19% in the second postburn growing season of 2003. Burns temporarily suppressed the abundance of broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha) and enhanced forage nitrogen content during May and June of the first postburn growing season. These findings suggest that, except following severe drought, prescribed burns conducted during late winter in grazed shortgrass steppe for objectives unrelated to livestock production can also have neutral or positive consequences for livestock.