Ecosystem water availability in juniper versus sagebrush snow-dominated rangelands
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CitationKormos, P. R., Marks, D., Pierson, F. B., Williams, C. J., Hardegree, S. P., Havens, S., Hedrick, A., Bates, J. D., & Svejcar, T. J. (2017). Ecosystem water availability in juniper versus sagebrush snow-dominated rangelands. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 70(1), 116–128.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractWestern Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis Hook.) has greatly expanded in the past 150+years and now dominates over 3.6 million ha of rangeland in the Intermountain Western United States. The impacts of juniper encroachment on critical ecohydrological relationships among snowdistribution, water budgets, plant community transitions, and habitat requirements for wildlife, such as the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), remain poorly understood. The goal of this study is to better understand how juniper encroachment affects water availability for ecohydrologic processes and associatedwildlife habitat in snow-dominated sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe ecosystems. A 6-yr combined measurement and modeling study is conducted to explore differences in snow distribution, water availability, and annual water balances between juniper-dominated and sagebrushdominated catchments. Although there is large interannual variability in both measured weather data and modeled hydrologic fluxes during the study, results indicate that juniper-dominated catchments have greater peak accumulations of snow water equivalent, earlier snow melt, and less streamflow relative to sagebrushdominated catchments. Water delivery is delayed by an average of 9 days in the sagebrush-dominated scenario comparedwith the juniper-dominated scenario as a result of increasedwater storage in snow drifts. The delayed water input to sagebrush-dominated ecosystems in typical water years has wide-ranging implications for available surface water, soil water, and vegetation dynamics associated with wildlife habitat for sagebrush obligates such as sage grouse. Results from this study imply that the retention of high-elevation, sagebrush-dominated landscapes may become crucial for sage grouse habitat management if mid- and low-elevation precipitation continues to transition from snow to rain dominated.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of The Society for Range Management. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).