The mixed mountain shrub community is one of the WLCI priority habitat types and is associated with numerous WLCI conservation priority areas and habitat projects. The current extent and condition of mountain shrub patches is unknown in most of the WLCI region; thus, trends in their condition and mechanisms driving those conditions are also unknown. Ongoing monitoring data from selected stands indicate an overall decline in this community type. Hypotheses as to what is causing the decline range from persistent drought to herbivory and, possibly, factors associated with increased energy development. Our long-term objectives are to measure and map the current conditions and distribution of mixed mountain shrub communities and evaluate the potential effects of habitat treatments (such as those supported by Local Project Development Teams to improve mule deer habitat), weather-related trends, increased energy development, and other change agents.
During FY2014, we continued efforts to record the presence of mixed mountain shrub communities within the Big Piney-La Barge area identified in the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Habitat Plan (Damm and Randall, 2012). We selected this area to take advantage of existing assessment and monitoring data acquired by WLCI partners. Mapping efforts, which we began in 2012, were expanded in 2013 to include currant, gooseberry, and sumac species in addition to the original target species (“true” mountain mahogany and curl-leaf mountain mahogany, chokecherry, antelope bitterbrush, and snowberry). Spatial data collected in 2014 will be used to improve existing map products completed in 2013 (Bowen and others, 2013). We also conducted vegetation sampling in FY2014 to assess the condition of mahogany shrub communities in the Big Piney-La Barge area. Thirty-three study locations were randomly selected from previously developed maps (Bowen and others, 2013). Measurements were taken to quantify shrub foliar cover, density, size, mortality, age-class structure and diversity, and the extent of herbivory on shrubs across the Big Piney-La Barge area.
Maps and other information from this work are being used to support WLCI partners with conservation planning and effectiveness monitoring of habitat treatments in mixed mountain shrub communities. The treatments, designed to enhance crucial winter and transition habitat for mule deer, include mowing, aeration, seeding, burning, and herbicide applications. The USGS continues to improve its approaches to modeling (mapping) vegetation to support our ongoing mountain shrub and mule deer research. The associated products and information are shared with WLCI partners during Local Project Development Team meetings.
Damm, P., and Randall, J., 2012, Wyoming range mule deer habitat management plan: Big Piney-LaBarge area: Pinedale, Wyo., Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Pinedale Regional Office, 71 p.
Bowen, Z.H., Aldridge, C.L., Anderson, P.J., Assal, T.J., Biewick, L.R.H., Blecker, S.W., Boughton, G.K., Bristol, S., Carr, N.B., Chalfoun, A.D., Chong, G.W., Clark, M.L., Diffendorfer, J.E., Fedy, B.C., Foster, K., Garman, S.L., Germaine, S., Hethcoat, M.G., Holloway, J., Homer, C., Kauffman, M.J., Keinath, D., Latysh, N., Manier, D., McDougal, R.R., Melcher, C.P., Miller, K.A., Montag, J., Olexa, E.M., Potter, C.J., Schell, S., Shafer, S.L., Smith, D.B., Stillings, L.L., Sweat, M.J., Tuttle, M., and Wilson, A.B., 2013, U.S. Geological Survey science for the Wyoming Landscape Conservation 60 Initiative -- 2011 annual report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013-1033, 145 p., at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2013/1033/.
Products Completed in FY2014
Products Completed in FY2013
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