• Large-Scale Aerial Images Capture Details of Invasive Plant Populations

      Blumenthal, Dana; Booth, D. Terrence; Cox, Samuel E.; Ferrier, Cara E. (Society for Range Management, 2007-09-01)
      Satellite and high-altitude aerial remote sensing have been used to measure dense infestations of invasive weeds over very large areas but have limited resolution and cannot be used to detect sparsely distributed weeds. Ground-based methods have provided detailed measurements of invasive weeds but can measure only limited areas. Here we test a novel approach that uses a lightweight airplane, flying at 72 km h-1 and 100-m altitude, to rapidly collect high-resolution images over relatively large areas. We obtained 1 987 images, each representing 48.5 m2 of mixed-grass prairie with 2-mm resolution (ground sample distance). From these images we were able to reliably measure small patches and even individual plants of the invasive forb Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica [L.] P. Mill.). Ground-based measurements of aboveground toadflax biomass were highly correlated (R2>0.93) with point-intercept and visual-estimate cover measurements from aerial images. The time required to analyze images ranged from 4 to 45 seconds for presence/absence data and from 1 to 6 minutes for cover data. Toadflax was present in 795 of 1 987 images but exceeded 1% cover in only 99 images. Given the observed variation among images in toadflax cover, at least 400 images were needed to precisely estimate the mean toadflax cover of 0.2%. These results suggest that such high-resolution aerial imagery could be used to obtain detailed measurements of many invasive weed populations. It may be most useful for identifying incipient weed infestations and expanding the scale at which population-level attributes of weed populations can be effectively measured. 
    • Saltcedar Water Use: Realistic and Unrealistic Expectations

      Owens, M. Keith; Moore, Georgianne W. (Society for Range Management, 2007-09-01)
      Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is a widespread invasive plant found in riparian corridors and floodplains in 16 western states. In addition to being associated with such problems as increased soil salinity and decreased plant diversity, saltcedar has been reported to be a prolific water user. Popular press articles widely report that each individual saltcedar tree can use as much as 757 L (200 gallons) per day. Consequently massive control and removal efforts are underway to reduce transpirational water loss and increase water salvage for arid and semiarid environments. Although the potential economic benefits of these control efforts are touted, it has not been proven whether such water savings are possible on a stream level. The original citation for the 757-L estimate does not list the experimental design or techniques used to arrive at this value. We use three lines of evidence— peer-reviewed scientific literature, sap flux rates and sap wood area, and potential evaporation rates—to demonstrate the improbability that saltcedar, or any other woody species, can use this much water per tree on a daily basis. A more realistic estimate of maximum tree-level daily water use derived from sap flux measurements would be <122 L d-1 (32.2 gallons). Estimates of water salvage would be grossly overestimated using the popular water use value (757 L d-1), and economic benefits from saltcedar control based solely on water salvage are questionable. 
    • Short-Term Effects of Burning Wyoming Big Sagebrush Steppe in Southeast Oregon

      Davies, Kirk W.; Bates, Jonathan D.; Miller, Richard F. (Society for Range Management, 2007-09-01)
      Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis [Beetle A. Young] S.L. Welsh) plant communities of the Intermountain West have been greatly reduced from their historic range as a result of wildfire, agronomic practices, brush control treatments, and weed invasions. The impact of prescribed fall burning Wyoming big sagebrush has not been well quantified. Treatments were sagebrush removed with burning (burned) and sagebrush present (control). Treatments were applied to 0.4-ha plots at 6 sites. Biomass production, vegetation cover, perennial herbaceous vegetation diversity, soil water content, soil inorganic nitrogen (NO -3 , NH +4 ), total soil nitrogen (N), total soil carbon (C), and soil organic matter (OM) were compared between treatments in the first 2 years postburn. In 2003 and 2004, total (shrub and herbaceous) aboveground annual biomass production was 2.3 and 1.2 times greater, respectively, in the control compared to the burned treatment. In the upper 15 cm of the soil profile, inorganic N concentrations were greater in the burned than control treatment, while soil water, at least in the spring, was greater in the control than burned treatment. Regardless, greater herbaceous aboveground annual production and cover in the burned treatment indicated that resources were more available to herbaceous vegetation in the burned than the control treatment. Exotic annual grasses did not increase with the burn treatment. Our results suggest in some instances that late seral Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities can be prescribed fall burned to increase livestock forage or alter wildlife habitat without exotic annual grass invasion in the first 2 years postburn. However, long-term evaluation at multiple sites across a larger area is needed to better quantify the effects of prescribed fall burning on these communities. Thus, caution is advised because of the value of Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities to wildlife and the threat of invasive plants. 
    • Successional Transitions and Management of a Phosphorus-Limited Shrubland Ecosystem

      Henkin, Zalmen; Seligman, No'am G.; Noy-Meir, Imanuel (Society for Range Management, 2007-09-01)
      The decline of traditional pastoral systems has highlighted the problem of managing shrub encroachment on successional shrublands in the Mediterranean region, especially in marginal habitats. A long-term study of the response of ecosystem dynamics to phosphate amelioration and shrub control was initiated in 1988 on an area of phosphorus deficient terra rossa, dominated by dwarf shrubs that had been burnt in the summer of that year. The treatments were imposed in a replicated factorial design once at the beginning of the study. The area was previously grazed yearlong by goats, but during the experiment beef cattle grazed the area during the summer of each year. Without herbicide control, shrub cover reached its preburn level within 5 years, but with shrub control after 17 years, it had not yet reached the preburn level. The average shrub cover over the whole experimental period was 41.9%-49.1% without herbicide and 13.5%-24.4% with (P<0.0001, SE of the difference = 3.99). The effect of phosphate application on shrub cover was not significant, but cover of herbaceous vegetation increased (P < 0.0016, SE of difference = 5.03). A ‘‘state and transition’’ scheme was constructed that defines the interventions necessary to buffer any one of the states against the pressures of successional processes. Vegetation states were defined by the dominance of either herbaceous vegetation or one of two spiny shrub species, Prickly burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum, Rosaceae) and Calicotome villosa (Fabaceae). The timing and scale of the interventions depend largely on landscape management objectives and on available economic and logistic resources. We conclude that appropriate management of grazing, periodic control of the shrub component, and occasional soil nutrient amelioration can lead to the development of attractive open woodland with a productive herbaceous understory that provides a wider range of ecological services than a landscape dominated by the undisturbed successional shrub thickets. 
    • Will Molasses or Conditioning Increase Consumption of Spotted Knapweed by Sheep?

      Whitney, Travis R.; Olson, Bret E. (Society for Range Management, 2007-09-01)
      The spread of the invasive, Eurasian spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa Lam.) across the northwestern United States would be reduced if livestock regularly consumed it. We determined if white-face yearling ewes (n = 36) conditioned for 12 days to fresh-cut spotted knapweed, with or without molasses, would increase their use of it during a 5-day field trial and/or a 4-day drylot trial. Ewes were assigned to one of three treatments: ewes not conditioned to spotted knapweed or molasses (NC), ewes conditioned to spotted knapweed (SK), or ewes conditioned to spotted knapweed sprayed with liquid beet molasses (SKM). During conditioning, all groups consumed high amounts of their feed. Nonconditioned ewes (NC) consumed less than ewes conditioned to spotted knapweed (SK, SKM), indicating spotted knapweed did not inhibit initial consumption. In the field, SKM ewes spent more time grazing spotted knapweed and other forbs than SK ewes. In a drylot, time spent eating and intake of spotted knapweed and bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.) varied through time. Conditioning yearling ewes to spotted knapweed, with or without molasses, did not increase consumption of this invasive plant, possibly because sheep inherently graze spotted knapweed only to a certain extent, or we did not use enough spotted knapweed during conditioning.