• Corticosterone metabolite concentrations in greater sage-grouse are positively associated with the presence of cattle grazing

      Jankowski, M. D.; Russell, R. E.; Franson, J. C.; Dusek, R. J.; Hines, M. K.; Gregg, M.; Hofmeister, E. K. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      The sagebrush biome in the western United States is home to the imperiled greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and encompasses rangelands used for cattle production. Cattle grazing activities have been implicated in the range-wide decline of the sage-grouse, but no studies have investigated the relationship between the physiological condition of sage-grouse and the presence of grazing cattle. We sampled 329 sage-grouse across four sites (two grazed and two ungrazed) encompassing 13600 km2 during the spring and late summer-early autumn of 2005 to evaluate whether demographic factors, breeding status, plasma protein levels, and residence in a cattle-grazed habitat were associated with the stress hormone corticosterone. Corticosterone was measured in feces as immunoreactive corticosterone metabolites (ICM). Males captured during the lekking season exhibited higher ICM levels than all others. Prenesting female sage-grouse captured in a grazed site had higher ICM levels than those in ungrazed sites and prenesting female plasma protein levels were negatively correlated with ICM concentrations. With the use of a small-scale spatial model, we identified a positive correlation between cattle pat count and sage-grouse ICM levels. Our model indicated that ICM levels increased by 2.60 ng·g-1 dry feces for every increase in the number of cow pats found in the vicinity. Management practices will benefit from future research regarding the consistency and mechanism(s) responsible for this association and, importantly, how ICM levels and demographic rates are related in this species of conservation concern.
    • Fire and nitrogen addition increase forage quality of aristida purpurea

      Dufek, N. A.; Vermeire, L. T.; Waterman, R. C.; Ganguli, A. C. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea Nutt.) is a native perennial bunchgrass with limited forage value that dominates sites with disturbed soils and persists with repeated severe grazing. Fire and nitrogen addition have been used to reduce threeawn and can increase grazing utilization of threeawn by livestock. We evaluated effects of fire, spring urea addition, and phenological stage on purple threeawn forage quality 1 yr postfire on two similar sites in southeastern Montana during the 2011 (site 1) and 2012 (site 2) growing seasons. Fire (no fire, summer fire, fall fire) and rate of nitrogen addition (0, 46, 80 kg N·ha-1) were arranged in a completely randomized, fully factorial design. Samples were collected at five phenological stages throughout each growing season. Forage quality was assessed using nutrient analyses of crude protein (CP), net energy (NEm), and total digestible nutrients; antiquality analyses of neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber, and silica; in vitro fermentation for organic matter disappearance (IVOMD) and NDF disappearance; and gas production (asymptotic [maximum] gas production, fractional rate of gas production, lag time, and average fermentation rate). In vegetative stages, summer and fall fire increased CP from 6.2% to 12.1% and 13.0%, respectively, and NDF decreased from 72.1% to 69.4% and 68.2%, respectively. Summer and fall fire reduce silica content from 7.0% to 4.1% and 4.3%, respectively. Purple threeawn IVOMD increased by 14.0% and 13.0% following summer and fall fire, respectively, compared to nonburned plots. Nitrogen addition increased CP from 7.5% to 8.0% and 8.4%, respectively, with 46% and 80 kg N·ha-1, respectively. In vitro fermentation and gas production variables did not change due to nitrogen addition. Fire generally improved purple threeawn forage quality to a greater extent than did nitrogen addition. Results indicate fire can potentially improve the suitability of purple threeawn as a forage species.
    • A comparison of bromus tectorum growth and mycorrhizal colonization in salt desert vs. Sagebrush Habitats

      Haubensak, K. A.; D'Antonio, C. M.; Embry, S.; Blank, R. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has recently invaded marginal low-elevation salt desert habitats across the Great Basin. We tested the hypothesis that cheatgrass seed produced in populations from the more stressful salt desert vs. upland sagebrush habitats should grow differently in salt desert soils compared to adjacent upland sagebrush soil, and vice versa. We evaluated growth, incidence of flowering, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonization of plants grown in the soils from which their seeds were collected vs. in the reciprocal soils from the nearest sagebrush or salt desert site in three large basins in northern Nevada. Simultaneously we measured nutrient cations, available nitrogen and phosphorus, percent carbon and nitrogen, texture, and dry-down characteristics in all soils. We found that salt desert soils were generally more nutrient poor and more saline than their upland (sagebrush) counterparts; salt desert soils also generally had a higher percentage of sand compared to their upland counterparts and were consistently drier. The most dramatic plant responses to soil and seed source were 1) lower aboveground biomass of mature plants in most salt desert soils compared to sagebrush soils, or lower biomass in plants grown from salt desert seed; 2) lower root:shoot ratios in plants grown in salt desert soil across two of three basins, irrespective of seed source; 3) a higher percentage of flowering individuals from salt desert seed sources at harvest, irrespective of soil source; 4) depressed AMF colonization of plants in salt desert soils; and 5) strong influence exerted by seed source on AMF, whereby sagebrush-originating plants grown in sagebrush soils had greater AMF colonization compared to salt desert soils but salt desert-originating seedlings had very low AMF colonization rates irrespective of soil source. These results suggest that both population level and soil-based controls are important as this widespread weed moves into marginal habitat. © 2014 The Society for Range Management.
    • Assessing greater sage-grouse breeding habitat with aerial and ground imagery

      Beck, J. L.; Terrance, Booth, D.; Kennedy, C. L. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Anthropogenic disturbances, wildfires, and weedy-plant invasions have destroyed and fragmented many sagebrush (Artemisia L. spp.) habitats. Sagebrush-dependent species like greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are vulnerable to these changes, making habitat monitoring essential to effective management. Conventional ground inventory methods are time consuming (expensive) and have lower data collection potentials than remote sensing. Our study evaluated the feasibility of ground (0.3-mm ground surface distance [GSD]) and aerial imagery (primarily, 1-mm GSD) to assess ground cover for big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) and other vegetation functional groups important in sage-grouse breeding habitat (lekking, nesting, and brood rearing). We surveyed ∼526 km2 of the upper Powder River watershed in Natrona County, Wyoming, USA, a region dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) communities interspersed with narrow riparian corridors. Our study area was used year-round by sage-grouse and included 16 leks. In June 2010, we acquired aerial images (1-mm resolution) for 3228 systematic sampling locations; additional images were acquired as rapid-succession bursts where aerial transects crossed riparian areas and for 39 riparian and 39 upland ground locations (0.3-mm resolution) within 3.2-km of leks. We used SamplePoint software to quantify cover for plant taxa and functional groups using all ground images and a systematic sampling of aerial images. Canopy cover of sage-grouse food forbs-As averaged across aerial and ground imagery around all leks-was 1.8% and 7.8% in riparian and 0.5% and 4.0% in upland areas, respectively. Big sagebrush cover was 8.7% from upland aerial images and 9.4% from upland ground images. Aerial and ground imagery provided similar values for bare ground and shrubs in riparian and upland areas, whereas ground imagery provided finer-scale herbaceous-cover data that complemented the aerial imagery. These and other image-derived archival data provide a practical basis for landscape-scale management and are a cost-effective means for monitoring extensive sagebrush habitats.
    • Impact of cultivation legacies on rehabilitation seedings and native species re-establishment in great basin shrublands

      Morris, L. R.; Monaco, T. A.; Sheley, R. L. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Little is known about how cultivation legacies affect the outcome of rehabilitation seedings in the Great Basin, even though both frequently co-occur on the same lands. Similarly, there is little known about how these legacies affect native species re-establishment into these seedings. We examined these legacy effects by comparing areas historically cultivated and seeded to adjacent areas that were seeded but never cultivated, for density of seeded crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertn.) and native perennial grasses, vegetation cover, and ground cover. At half of the sites, historically cultivated areas had lower crested wheatgrass density (P<0.05), and only one site had a higher density of crested wheatgrass (P<0.05). Likewise, the native shrub Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) had lower cover (P<0.05) in historically cultivated areas at half the sites. Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda J. Presl.) density was consistently lower in historically cultivated areas relative to those seeded-only. At sites where black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus [Hook.] Torr.) and bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey) were encountered, there was either no difference or a higher density and cover within historically cultivated areas (P<0.05). Likewise, cover of exotic forbs, especially halogeton (Halogeton glomeratus [M. Bieb.] C. A. Mey.), was either not different or higher in historically cultivated areas (P<0.05). Bare ground was greater in historically cultivated areas at three sites (P<0.05). These results suggest that cultivation legacies can affect seeding success and re-establishment of native vegetation, and therefore should not be overlooked when selecting research sites or planning land treatments that include seeding and or management to achieve greater native species diversity.
    • Cover estimations using object-based image analysis rule sets developed across multiple scales in pinyon-juniper woodlands

      Hulet, A.; Roundy, B. A.; Petersen, S. L.; Jensen, R. R.; Bunting, S. C. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Numerous studies have been conducted that evaluate the utility of remote sensing for monitoring and assessing vegetation and ground cover to support land management decisions and complement ground measurements. However, few comparisons have been made that evaluate the utility of object-based image analysis (OBIA) to accurately classify a landscape where rule sets (models) have been developed at various scales. In this study, OBIA rule sets used to estimate land cover from high-spatial resolution imagery (0.06-m pixel) on Pinus L. (pinyon) and Juniperus L. (juniper) woodlands were developed using eCognition Developer at four scales with varying grains-1) individual plot, 2) individual sites, 3) regions (western juniper vs. Utah juniper sites), and 4) pinyon-juniper woodland network (all plots)-that were within the same study extent. Color-infrared imagery was acquired over five sites in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Utah with a Vexcel UltraCamX digital camera in June 2009. Ground cover measurements were also collected at study sites in 2009 on 80 0.1-ha plots. Correlations between OBIA and ground measurements were relatively high for individual plot and site rule sets (ranging from r=0.52 to r=0.98). Correlations for regional and network rule sets were lower (ranging from r=0.24 to r=0.63), which was expected due to radiance differences between the images as well as vegetation differences found at each site. All site and plot OBIA average cover percentage estimates for live trees, shrubs, perennial herbaceous vegetation, litter, and bare ground were within 5% of the ground measurements, and all region and network OBIA average cover percentage estimates were within 10%. The trade-off for decreased accuracy over a larger area (region and network rule sets) may be useful to prioritize management strategies but will unlikely capture subtle shifts in understory plant communities that site and plot rule sets often capture.
    • Grazing intensity influences ground squirrel and american badger habitat use in mixed-grass prairies

      Bylo, L. N.; Koper, N.; Molloy, K. A. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Ground squirrel (Spermophilus spp.) and American badger (Taxidea taxus) burrowing activities are ecologically important disturbances that contribute to the heterogeneity of prairie environments. These activities also have a strong impact on habitat suitability for many other grassland species. However, effects of cattle grazing intensity on ground squirrel and American badger burrows are not well understood. From 2006 to 2012 we evaluated effects of grazing intensity and vegetation type on American badger burrow occurrence and ground squirrel burrow abundance using a manipulative grazing experiment in Grasslands National Park of Canada, Saskatchewan. The study area consisted of nine 300-ha pastures at a range of stocking rates, from very low to very high for the region. Each pasture had 10 plots (six upland and four lowland) where vegetation and burrow surveys were completed. Burrow abundance and occurrence as well as vegetation structure were assessed for 2 yr prior to the introduction of cattle to this landscape in 2008, which followed at least 15 yr without livestock, and from 2009 to 2012, following introduction of livestock. Data were analyzed using generalized linear mixed models. In upland habitats, ground squirrel burrow counts increased with increasing grazing intensity and decreasing vegetation biomass; conversely, badger burrow occurrence increased with decreased stocking rates and increasing average litter cover and vegetation biomass. Abundance and occurrence of both ground squirrel and badger burrows in lowland habitats was relatively independent of grazing intensity or vegetation. Vegetation composition had little impact on ground squirrel or badger burrows. A range of grazing intensities may contribute to maintaining diversity of burrowing mammals in prairie environments.
    • Examination of fire-related succession within the dry mixed-grass subregion of alberta with the use of MODIS and Landsat

      Smith, B.; McDermid, G. J. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Fire is an important disturbance process historically present across the northern Great Plains. Previous research from northern dry mixed-grass prairie suggests that C4 (warm season) grasses replace C3 (cool season) climax species with increasing fire, particularly in the spring. This hypothesis was tested at a landscape scale at Canadian Forces Base Suffield Alberta, by exploring the relationship between ecosystem states (C3 dominant, C3/C4 codominant, C4 dominant) inferred from a MODIS multitemporal plant functional type classification (pseudo R2: 0.598, overall accuracy: 0.74) and interyear fire history digitized from the Landsat archive (1972-2007). Probit regression showed that succession processes were different between range sites, where C4-dominant pixels were positively related to fire (P&lt;0.001, pseudo R2=1) and completely replaced C3-dominant pixels on loamy range sites after 14 fires in 36 yr. In contrast, C3- and C3/C4-codominant pixels were related with fire on Blowouts range sites (P&lt;0.001, pseudo R2=1), where C3/C4-codominant pixels replaced C3-dominant pixels with increasing fire. Finally, there were no statistically significant relationships between ecosystem states and fire for Sands range sites. Analysis of recovery showed that after loamy pixels experienced three to six fires in 18 yr followed by 18 yr of rest, C3-dominant pixels were reduced by over 30% compared to unburned pixels. Finally, intrayear fire timing (2001-2009) was explored with the use of Wilcoxon signed-rank tests between the spatial extent of spring and summer fires, with the use of MODIS burned-Area data. Results indicate that fires are not limited to the spring season (P&lt;0.05), but occur across the entire growing season. Although fire timing does not appear to play a role in driving succession, this ecosystem is generally sensitive to repeated fire, with recovery of C3 climax species taking decades.
    • Grazing management, season, and drought contributions to near-surface soil property dynamics in semiarid rangeland

      Liebig, M. A.; Kronberg, S. L.; Hendrickson, J. R.; Gross, J. R. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Grazing management effects on soil property dynamics are poorly understood. A study was conducted to assess effects of grazing management and season on soil property dynamics and greenhouse gas flux within semiarid rangeland. Grazing management treatments evaluated in the study included two permanent pastures differing in stocking rate (moderately and heavily grazed pastures) and a fertilized, heavily grazed crested wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum [Fisch. ex. Link] Schult.) pasture near Mandan, North Dakota. Over a period of 3 yr, soil properties were measured in the spring, summer, and fall at 0-5 cm and 5-10 cm. Concurrent to soil-based measurements, fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide were measured on 1-wk to 2-wk intervals and related to soil properties via stepwise regression. High stocking rate and fertilizer nitrogen (N) application within the crested wheatgrass pasture contributed to increased soil bulk density and extractable N, and decreased soil pH and microbial biomass compared to permanent pastures. Soil nitrate nitrogen tended to be greatest at peak aboveground biomass, whereas soil ammonium nitrogen was greatest in early spring. Drought conditions during the third year of the study contributed to nearly two-fold increases in extractable N under the crested wheatgrass pasture and the heavily grazed permanent pasture, but not the moderately grazed permanent pasture. Stepwise regression found select soil properties to be modestly related to soil-Atmosphere greenhouse gas fluxes, with model r 2 ranging from 0.09 to 0.76. Electrical conductivity was included most frequently in stepwise regressions and, accordingly, may serve as a useful screening indicator for greenhouse gas "hot spots" in grazing land.
    • Large-scale downy brome treatments alter plant-soil relationships and promote perennial grasses in salt desert shrublands

      Hirsch-Schantz, M. C.; Monaco, T. A.; Call, C. A.; Sheley, R. L. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Because invasive annual grasses can strongly influence soil resource availability and disturbance regimes to favor their own persistence, there is a great need to understand the interrelationships among invasive plant abundance, resource availability, and desirable species prominence. These interrelationships were studied in two salt desert sites where the local abundance of downy brome (Bromus tectorum L.) varied spatially and increased more than 12-fold over a 3-yr period. We measured downy brome percentage cover, resource availability, and soil chemical and physical properties within 112 plots per site and found significant negative associations between downy brome abundance and both soil water content (P&lt;0.05; r=-0.27 to -0.49) and nitrate accumulation (P&lt;0.05; r=-0.34 to -0.45), which corroborated with the direction and strength of multivariate factor loadings assessed with principal component analysis. We then applied factorial combinations of prescribed burning and preemergence herbicide at management-relevant scales (i.e., 6 to 46 ha) as well as biomass removal to smaller plots (12.25 m2) at both sites to determine their impact on downy brome, soil resources, and resident plant species. Burning and herbicide applications, especially when combined, significantly reduced downy brome cover (P=0.069 to 0.015), which in turn increased soil nitrate accumulation and water content in the spring. Furthermore, for one shrubland site that was seeded 6 yr previously, the combination of burning and herbicide treatments significantly increased perennial grass percentage cover in the 2 yr posttreatment (P&lt;0.05). Results not only demonstrate the strong relationships between downy brome abundance, soil resources, and residence species for impoverished salt desert shrub ecosystems, but also suggest that restoration and management efforts must include tactics that facilitate resource use by the residual plant community or establish a greater abundance of species capable of high resource acquisition in the spring.
    • Is pile seeding wyoming big sagebrush (artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) an effective alternative to broadcast seeding?

      Boyd, C. S.; Obradovich, M. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)
      Sagebrush plays an important role in the ecological functions of sagebrush steppe plant communities and is a necessary component of habitat for a variety of wildlife including greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). At lower elevations, increased fire frequency associated with exotic annual grass invasion has heightened the need for effective sagebrush restoration strategies, but existing techniques have been largely ineffective. Our objective was to evaluate "pile seeding" (placing mature seed heads on the ground) of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) as an alternative to broadcast seeding. We used a randomized block design (n=5) replicated in 2 yr at two contrasting ecological sites in southeastern Oregon. Treatments applied to 100×1.5 m plots included 1) pile seeding (four mature seed heads·pile- 1×10 piles·plot -1), 2) broadcast seeding (0.5 kg pure live seed [PLS]·ha -1), and 3) natural recovery (i.e., nonseeded). Planting occurred in fall 2008 and 2009, and plots were monitored for seedling establishment for three or two growing seasons postplanting. Seedling density was estimated at the plot scale within a 50-cm radius of each seed head pile ("island scale"). In the year following planting, sagebrush seedling density at the plot scale was up to 60-fold higher (P≤0.05) in pile-seeded plots compared to natural recovery and broadcast plots. Seedling mortality was high (up to 98% reduction in density) for pile-seeded plots between the first and second growing seasons postplanting and differences between broadcast and pile-seeded plots dissipated by 2-3 yr postplanting. Although pile-seeding had higher initial density than broadcast seeding, neither technique had sufficient multiyear survival to suggest restoration efficacy at the plot scale. Seedling density at the island scale suggests that pile-seeding may be useful for establishing sagebrush islands, depending on year conditions. Research is needed to determine strategies capable of increasing long-term sagebrush seedling survival.
    • REM publishes its 10th volume: An editorial report

      Briske, D. D.; Burns, P. (Society for Range Management, 2014-05)