• Soil depth assessment of sagebrush grazing treatments using electromagnetic induction

      Bork, E. W.; West, N. E.; Doolittle, J. A.; Boettinger, J. L. (Society for Range Management, 1998-07-01)
      Depth to a root restricting layer affects both soil moisture and nutrient availability, resources strongly correlated to plant cover and production. We evaluated the potential of 2 electromagnetic induction meters (EM38 and EM31) for non-destructively assessing soil depth to bedrock in 2 long-term seasonal sagebrush steppe sheep grazing treatments with different vegetational compositions. Apparent conductivity readings, measured with the EM38 and EM31 in both the horizontal (H) and vertical (V) dipole orientations, were positively related to soil depth. Apparent conductivity measured with the EM31H (r2 = 0.78) and EM38V (r2 = 0.75) were the best predictors of depth. Soil depth distributions were similar between grazing treatments based on Kolmogorov-Smirnov (K-S) tests of the EM38H apparent conductivity (P = 0.47) and EM38V apparent conductivity (P = 0.56). In constrast, K-S tests for the EM31H apparent conductivity (P = 0.09) and EM31V apparent conductivity (P < 0.01) indicated the fall-grazed treatment had a larger area in which soil depth exceeded 150 cm. Because less than 2% of each grazing treatment was predicted to have soils deeper than 150 cm, however, overall site differences between the 2 treatments appeared to be minor. Therefore, the vegetational differences between the treatments have probably resulted more from differences in the seasonality of grazing rather than ecological site characteristics as reflected in soil depth. Maps of soil depth indicated both treatments consisted of intermittent shallow and deep soils, created by several parallel basalt pressure ridges. Results suggest electromagnetic induction can effectively assess the spatial variability of soil depth and could aid in selecting sites for rangeland monitoring or manipulation.