• Observations of cattle use of prairie dog towns

      Guenther, D. A.; Detling, J. K. (Society for Range Management, 2003-09-01)
      We investigated the use of prairie dog towns by cattle (Bos taurus) on the shortgrass steppe of northeastern Colorado by conducting surveys of cattle and vegetation from June to August 1999. Cattle presence and behavior were recorded 3 times a week during driving surveys of 15 black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) towns. A subset of 3 pastures with prairie dog towns was intensively surveyed twice weekly wherein the habitat and activity of a randomly chosen focal animal was recorded every 6 minutes for 3.5 hours. Bite and step counts of other individuals were recorded for 5-minute intervals. Vegetation height and cover data were collected monthly on each of 6 habitats. Results from driving surveys and intensively surveyed pastures were similar; cattle neither significantly preferred nor avoided prairie dog towns. Bare ground cover on prairie dog towns did not significantly differ from most other habitats, but vegetation on prairie dog towns was significantly shorter on (mean = 6.7 cm) than that off (mean = 11.9 cm) prairie dog towns. Nevertheless, foraging observations indicated that there was no significant difference between cattle foraging rates on swales (70.9 bites/min) and prairie dog towns (69.5 bites/min). Thus, cattle on the shortgrass steppe appear to use prairie dog towns in proportion to their availability and, while there, they graze as intensively as they do on habitats not inhabited by prairie dogs.
    • Remote sensing for cover change assessment in southeast Arizona

      Wallace, O. C.; Qi, J.; Heilma, P.; Marsett, R. C. (Society for Range Management, 2003-09-01)
      Understanding landscape conversion is vital for assessing the impacts of ecological and anthropogenic disturbances at regional and global scales. Since rangelands cover nearly half of the global land surface, and because a large part of rangelands is located in semi-arid ecosystems, they serve as critical land cover types for determining regional biodiversity, global biogeochemical cycles, and energy and gas fluxes. For such vast ecosystems, satellite imagery is often used to inventory biophysical materials and man-made features on Earth's surface. The large area coverage and frequent acquisition cycle of remotely sensed satellite images make earth observation data useful for monitoring land conversion rates at different spatial scales. Remote sensing could also be used for temporal assessment of semi-arid ecosystems by providing complimentary sets of rangeland health indicators. In this paper, temporal satellite data from multiple sensors were examined to quantify land use and land cover change, and to relate spatial configuration and composition to landscape structure and pattern. The findings were correlated with the role of fire to better understand ecological functionality and human and/or natural activities that are generating environmental stressors in a rapidly developing, semi-urban census division located in southeastern Arizona. Results indicate that conversion of a fire-suppressed native grassland area has 2 spatial components; in the rural areas, grass is being eliminated by increasingly homogeneous shrub and mesquite-dominated areas, whereas in the urban and suburban areas, grass as well shrubs and mesquite are being eliminated by a fragmented and expanding built landscape.