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Grazing management has focused largely on promoting vegetation homogeneity through uniform distribution of grazing to minimize area in a pasture that is either heavily disturbed or undisturbed. An alternative management model that couples grazing and fire (i.e., patch burning) to promote heterogeneity argues that grazing and fire interact through a series of positive and negative feedbacks to cause a shifting mosaic of vegetation composition and structure across the landscape. We compared patch burning with traditional homogeneity-based management in tallgrass prairie to determine the influence of the two treatments on the aboveground invertebrate community. Patch burning resulted in a temporal flush of invertebrate...
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Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) is an invasive annual grass that creates near-homogenous stands in areas throughout the Intermountain sagebrush steppe and challenges successful native plant restoration in these areas. A clipping experiment carried out at two cheatgrass-dominated sites in eastern Oregon (Lincoln Bench and Succor Creek) evaluated defoliation as a potential control method for cheatgrass and a seeding preparation method for native plant reseeding projects. Treatments involved clipping plants at two heights (tall = 7.6 cm, and short = 2.5 cm), two phenological stages (boot and purple), and two frequencies (once and twice), although purple-stage treatments were clipped only once. Treatments at each site...
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Although human influence across rural landscapes is often discussed, interactions between the native, natural systems and human activities are challenging to measure explicitly. We assessed the distribution of introduced, invasive species as related to anthropogenic infrastructure and environmental conditions across southwestern Wyoming. to discern direct correlations as well as covariate influences between land use, land cover, and abundance of invasive plants, and assess the supposition that these features affect surrounding rangeland conditions. Our sample units were 1 000 m long and extended outward from target features, which included roads, oil and gas well pads, pipelines, power lines, and featureless background...
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The Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) is an integrated long-term study that evaluates ecological effects of alternative treatments designed to reduce woody fuels and to stimulate the herbaceous understory of sagebrush steppe communities of the Intermountain West. This synopsis summarizes results through 3 yr posttreatment. Woody vegetation reduction by prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, or herbicides initiated a cascade of effects, beginning with increased availability of nitrogen and soil water, followed by increased growth of herbaceous vegetation. Response of butterflies and magnitudes of runoff and erosion closely followed herbaceous vegetation recovery. Effects on shrubs, biological...
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Indicators of rangeland health generally do not include a measure of biodiversity. Increasing attention to maintaining biodiversity in rangelands suggests that this omission should be reconsidered, and plant species richness and diversity are two metrics that may be useful and appropriate. Ideally, their response to a variety of anthropogenic and natural drivers in the ecosystem of interest would be clearly understood, thereby providing a means to diagnose the cause of decline in an ecosystem. Conceptual ecological models based on ecological principles and hypotheses provide a framework for this understanding, but these models must be supported by empirical evidence if they are to be used for decision making. To...
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Heavily grazed riparian areas are commonly subject to channel incision, a lower water table, and reduced vegetation, resulting in sediment delivery above normal regimes. Riparian and in-channel vegetation functions as a roughness element and dissipates flow energy, maintaining stable channel geometry. Ash Creek, a tributary of the Bad River in western South Dakota contains a high proportion of incised channels, remnants of historically high grazing pressure. Best management practices (BMP), including off-stream watering sources and cross fencing, were implemented throughout the Bad River watershed during an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 effort to address high sediment loads. We monitored prairie cordgrass...
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Adaptive management of road networks depends on timely data that accurately reflect the impacts those systems are having on ecosystem processes and associated services. In the absence of reliable data, land managers are left with little more than observations and perceptions to support management decisions of road-associated disturbances. Roads can negatively impact the soil, hydrologic, plant, and animal processes on which virtually all ecosystem services depend. The Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) protocol is a qualitative method that has been demonstrated to be effective in characterizing impacts of roads. The goal of this study were to develop, describe, and test an approach for using IIRH...
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Grasslands are among the most imperiled ecosystems in North America. Reasons that grasslands are threatened include conversion to row-crop agriculture, fragmentation, and changes in fire regimes. The reduction of fire processes in remaining prairies has resulted in tree encroachment and establishment in grasslands, further reducing grassland quantity and quality. Grassland birds have been experiencing precipitous population declines in recent decades, commensurate with landscape changes to grasslands. The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus Ridgway) is a declining species of prairie grouse of conservation concern. We used second- and third-order habitat selection metrics to test if female lesser prairie-chickens...
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Long-term vegetation dynamics across public rangelands in the western United States are not well understood because of the lack of large-scale, readily available historic datasets. The Bureau of Land Management’s Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) program was implemented between 1977 and 1983 across 14 western states, but the data have not been easily accessible. We introduce the SVIM vegetation cover dataset in a georeferenced, digital format; summarize how the data were collected; and discuss potential limitations and biases. We demonstrate how SVIM data can be compared with contemporary monitoring datasets to quantify changes in vegetation associated with wildfire and the abundance of exotic invasive species....
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Linear disturbances associated with on- and off-road vehicle use on rangelands has increased dramatically throughout the world in recent decades. This increase is due to a variety of factors including increased availability of all-terrain vehicles, infrastructure development (oil, gas, renewable energy, and ex-urban), and recreational activities. In addition to the direct impacts of road development, the presence and use of roads may alter resilience of adjoining areas through indirect effects such as altered site hydrologic and eolian processes, invasive seed dispersal, and sediment transport. There are few standardized methods for assessing impacts of transportation-related land-use activities on soils and vegetation...
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Nearly all of the ecosystem services supported by rangelands, including production of livestock forage, carbon sequestration, and provisioning of clean water, are negatively impacted by soil erosion. Accordingly, monitoring the severity, spatial extent, and rate of soil erosion is essential for long-term sustainable management. Traditional field-based methods of monitoring erosion (sediment traps, erosion pins, and bridges) can be labor intensive and therefore are generally limited in spatial intensity and/or extent. There is a growing effort to monitor natural resources at broad scales, which is driving the need for new soil erosion monitoring tools. One remote-sensing technique that can be used to monitor soil...
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Current paradigm suggests that spatial and temporal competition for resources limit an exotic invader, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.), which once established, alters fire regimes and can result in annual grass dominance in sagebrush steppe. Prescribed fire and fire surrogate treatments (mowing, tebuthiuron, and imazapic) are used to reduce woody fuels and increase resistance to exotic annuals, but may alter resource availability and inadvertently favor invasive species. We used four study sites within the Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) to evaluate 1) how vegetation and soil resources were affected by treatment, and 2) how soil resources influenced native herbaceous perennial and exotic...
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Fine-scale spatiotemporal studies can better identify relationships between individual survival and habitat fragmentation so that mechanistic interpretations can be made at the population level. Recent advances in Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and statistical models capable of deconstructing high-frequency location data have facilitated interpretation of animal movement within a behaviorally mechanistic framework. Habitat fragmentation due to singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla; hereafter pinyon) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma; hereafter juniper) encroachment into sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities is a commonly implicated perturbation that can adversely influence greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus...
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Ecological restoration is predicated on our abilities to discern plant taxa. Taxonomic identification is a first step in ensuring that plants are appropriately adapted to the site. An example of the need to identify taxonomic differences comes from big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). This species is composed of three predominant subspecies occupying distinct environmental niches, but overlap and hybridization are common in ecotones. Restoration of A. tridentata largely occurs using wildland collected seed, but there is uncertainty in the identification of subspecies or mix of subspecies from seed collections. Laboratory techniques that can determine subspecies composition would be desirable to ensure that subspecies...
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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 13 600 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...
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The resilience of willow (Salix monticola Bebb, Salix geyeriana Anderss., Salix planifolia Pursh) stems released from intense elk (Cervus elaphus) browsing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, was quantified in 1998 with a retrospective study that compared biomass, number, and length of segments on willow stems located inside (protected) and outside (browsed) elk exclosures. Segment biomass increased each year after protection by about 3–12 g year−1 on browsed stems and 10–27 g year−1 on protected stems. The number of segments on stems was similar for browsed and protected stems in the first 2 years after exclusion but differed in the next 3 years, when they increased exponentially on protected stems. Nearly...
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Biological soil crusts are a diverse soil surface community, prevalent in semiarid regions, which function as ecosystem engineers and perform numerous important ecosystem services. Loss of crusts has been implicated as a factor leading to accelerated soil erosion and other forms of land degradation. To support assessment and monitoring efforts aimed at ensuring the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems, managers require spatially explicit information concerning potential cover and composition of biological soil crusts. We sampled low disturbance sites in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah, USA) to determine the feasibility of modeling the potential cover and composition of biological soil crusts...
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The invasive yellow bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum [L.] Keng) threatens native biodiversity, and its control is of interest to land managers involved in restoration of invaded grasslands. We used single, double, and triple applications of glyphosate (2.125 kg ai.ha-1.application-1) over the course of one growing season in combinations at different timings (early, middle, late season) with and without a mechanical treatment of mowing or burning to determine the most effective control method. One year after treatment, burning and mowing prior to a mid-season single or double early, middle, and/or late season herbicide application resulted in a similar level of control of yellow bluestem relative to a triple herbicide...
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Invasive annual weeds negatively impact ecosystem services and pose a major conservation threat on semiarid rangelands throughout the western United States. Rehabilitation of these rangelands is challenging due to interannual climate and subseasonal weather variability that impacts seed germination, seedling survival and establishment, annual weed dynamics, wildfire frequency, and soil stability. Rehabilitation and restoration outcomes could be improved by adopting a weather-centric approach that uses the full spectrum of available site-specific weather information from historical observations, seasonal climate forecasts, and climate-change projections. Climate data can be used retrospectively to interpret success...


map background search result map search result map Detecting channel riparian vegetation response to best-management-practices implementation in ephemeral streams with the use of spot high-resolution visible imagery Corticosterone metabolite concentrations in greater sage-grouse are positively associated with the presence of cattle grazing Detecting channel riparian vegetation response to best-management-practices implementation in ephemeral streams with the use of spot high-resolution visible imagery Corticosterone metabolite concentrations in greater sage-grouse are positively associated with the presence of cattle grazing