• Climatic influences on recruitment of 3 subspecies of Artemisia tridentata

      Maier, A. M.; Perryman, B. L.; Olson, R. A.; Hild, A. L. (Society for Range Management, 2001-11-01)
      Previous research suggested that big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) recruitment occurs in pulses consistent with favorable climatic conditions. In 1997, 75 stem sections were collected from 9 stands of each of the 3 subspecies of big sagebrush in Wyoming along elevation and climatic gradients. Annual growth rings were used to identify the year plants were established. Large cohorts of Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) appeared in 1982, 1981, 1964, 1961, and 1955. Basin big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. tridentata Beetle and Johnson) cohorts flourished in 1991, 1986, 1985, 1982, and 1977. Mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana [Rydb.] Beetle) cohorts prospered in 1985, 1982, 1981, 1979, and 1974. Mean monthly precipitation and temperature records were compared to years with high and low recruitment using logistic regression models at 3 geographic scales (single-stand, regional, statewide). Wyoming big sagebrush recruitment was greatest in years with above-average December and January precipitation occurring after the first growing season (r2 = 0.10, 0.04, P < 0.05). Basin big sagebrush recruitment was most successful in years with above-average March, May, and June precipitation during the first growing season (r2 = 0.06, 0.09, 0.18, P < 0.05). Mountain big sagebrush recruitment was greatest in years with below-average February, April, and May precipitation after the first growing season (r2 = 0.03, 0.04, 0.04, P < 0.05). While variable precipitation patterns appear to contribute significantly to recruitment of big sagebrush, responses among the 3 major subspecies were quite variable. More complex models need to be developed to foster our understanding of the mechanisms affecting big sagebrush establishment.