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Shrub encroachment in arid and semiarid rangelands, a worldwide phenomenon, results in a heterogeneous landscape characterized by a mosaic of nutrient-depleted barren soil bordered by nutrient-enriched shrubby areas known as “fertile islands.� Even though shrub encroachment is considered as a major contributor to rangeland degradation, little is known about mechanisms favoring the reversibility of the early stages of this process. Here we synthesize the interactions between fires and soil erosion processes, and the implications of these interactions for management of rangelands. The burning of shrub vegetation develops relatively high levels of soil hydrophobicity. This fire-induced water repellency was shown...
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Historically, ecosystems in the southwestern United States derived much of their nitrogen (N) from N-fixation in biological soil crusts. Today, these regions have highly reduced crust cover, and atmospheric deposition may be the dominant source of N. This study investigates the effects of increased nitrogen deposition on nitrogen uptake, photosynthesis, and growth of the two main forage grasses on the Colorado Plateau, galleta (Hilaria jamesii [Torr.] Benth.) and Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides, [Roemer & J.S. Schultes] Ricker ex Piper). Plots were fertilized for 2 years with 0, 10, 20, and 40 kg nitrogen ha?1 annually, up to 4� the estimated current annual deposition rate, in 2 applications per year (spring...
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Soil under the crown of mesquite trees was compared to soil from adjacent openings at three depths for several physical and chemical properties near Tucson, Ariz. Bulk density was lower in soil under mesquite but increased with depth in that location. Organic matter, total nitrogen, total sulfur, and total soluble salts were up to three times greater in the surface 0 to 4.5 cm of mesquite soil than in open soil but declined with increasing depth to levels approximately the same as in open soil. Total potassium was higher under mesquite but increased with depth. Total phosphorus and hydrogen ion concentrations were the same in soil under mesquite as in soil from open areas. Results suggest that mesquite trees function...
Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus and C. minimus) historically inhabited much of the sagebrush-dominated habitat of North America. Today, sage-grouse populations are declining throughout most of their range. Population dynamics of sage-grouse are marked by strong cyclic behavior. Adult survival is high, but is offset by low juvenile survival, resulting in low productivity. Habitat for sage-grouse varies strongly by life-history stage. Critical habitat components include adequate canopy cover of tall grasses (? 18 cm) and medium height shrubs (40?80 cm) for nesting, abundant forbs and insects for brood rearing, and availability of herbaceous riparian species for late-growing season foraging. Fire ecology of...
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Over a 3-yr period, the qualitative assessment protocol “Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health” was used to evaluate the status of three ecosystem attributes (soil/site stability, hydrologic function, and biotic integrity) at over 500 locations in and adjacent to Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (Utah). Objectives were to provide data and interpretations to support the development of site-specific management strategies and to investigate broad-scale patterns in the status of different rangeland ecological sites. Quantitative data on ground cover, plant community composition, and soil stability were collected to aid the evaluation of qualitative attributes and improve consistency of the assessment...
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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...
Three mixed prairie sites at Mandan, N.D. were grazed heavily (0.9 ha ), moderately (2.6 ha ), or left ungrazed (exclosure) since 1916. These sites provided treatments to study the effects of long-term grazing on soil organic carbon and nitrogen content and to relate changes in soil carbon and nitrogen to grazing induced changes in species composition. Blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag. ex Griffiths] accounted for the greatest change in species composition for both grazing treatments. Relative foliar cover of blue grama was 25% in 1916 and 86% in 1994 in the heavily grazed pasture and 15% in 1916 to 16% in 1994 in the moderately grazed pasture. Total soil nitrogen content was higher in the exclosure (1.44...
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Over the last century there has been marked expansion and infilling of pinyon (Pinus spp.)–juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodlands into grassland and shrubland ecosystems across the western United States. Although range expansions in pinyon-juniper populations have been documented with changing climate throughout the Holocene, over the last century, local scale impacts such as livestock grazing, changes in fire regimes, and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are thought to be more recent drivers of pinyon-juniper woodland distribution. Our objective was to examine the role of historical livestock grazing relative to past climate in regulating pinyon (Pinus edulis Engelm.) recruitment and growth over the last...
This section reviews new publications available about the art and science of rangeland management. Personal copies of these publications can be obtained by contacting the respective publishers or senior authors (addresses shown in parentheses). Suggestions are welcomed and encouraged for items to include in future issues of Browsing the Literature. Published in Rangelands, volume 31, issue 6, on pages 30 - 32, in 2009.
A 20-year set of cover data on sagebrush semi-desert plant communities responding to wildfire and livestock grazing near Mills in central Utah provided an opportunity to compare the assumptions and adaptability of classical and state-and-transition models for describing secondary succession. Cover data were organized and analyzed by plant species, growth forms, and other ground cover classes. Graphical analysis, ordination (employing semi-strong hybrid multi-dimensional scaling), regression, and analysis-of-variance were used to determine whether the patterns observed were best described as community change (tightly linked species) or individualistic change (each species acting independently). Distinct differences...
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...
The phenology of galleta (Hilaria jamesii), shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), nuttall saltbush (A. nuttallii) and mat saltbush (A. corrugata) was studied to determine the effect of contour furrows on their vigor. Four years following treatment of the areas, the plants within 1 meter of the furrows were larger than control plants at least 3 meters from the treatments. Phenological index scores indicated earlier spring growth for the Atriplex species, and a longer summer and fall growth period for all species near furrows. Seed yields were significantly greater for plants near the furrows, providing a sustained seed source for natural establishment when artificial seedings in the salt desert area fail. Published...
Off-road military vehicle traffic is a major consideration in the management of military lands. The objective of this study was to determine the impacts of military tracked M1A1 heavy combat tank vehicles on sediment loss from runoff, surface plant cover, and surface microtopography in a desert military training environment. A randomized block design was used which had 10 blocks with 4 plots in each block. Each block had randomly selected treatments that included an untreated control, 1 pass by a M1A1 tank under wet seasonal conditions, 3 passes by a M1A1 tank under wet seasonal conditions, 1 pass by a M1A1 tank under dry seasonal conditions, and 3 passes by a M1A1 tank under dry seasonal conditions. Data were analyzed...
We investigated soil compaction and hydrologic responses from mechanically shredding Utah juniper (Juniperus ostesperma [Torr.] Little) to control fuels in a sagebrush/bunchgrass plant community (Artemisia nova A. Nelson, Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young/Pseudoroegneria spicata [Pursh] A. L�ve, Poa secunda J. Presl) on a gravelly loam soil with a 15% slope in the Onaqui Mountains of Utah. Rain simulations were applied on 0.5-m2 runoff plots at 64 mm � h?1 (dry run: soil initially dry) and 102 mm � h?1 (wet run: soil initially wet). Runoff and sediment were collected from runoff plots placed in five blocks, each containing four microsites (juniper mound, shrub mound, vegetation-free or...
In light of the continuing debate regarding overcompensation we studied the responses of above-ground biomass in a high-elevation, semi-arid grassland to defoliation, defoliation history, and livestock grazing. The above-ground annual net primary productivity (ANPP) was measured over 2 years in one-hundred twenty, 1-m2 plots that were exposed to single- and multi-year defoliation and grazing treatments. Plant communities showed an average increase in ANPP of 31%?45% due to a single defoliation event. The most conservative estimate of average ANPP of defoliated subplots was 29.4 g m?2 greater than the non-defoliated controls. A history of defoliation, due to clipping or grazing, lessened the magnitude of the compensatory...
Plant competition experiments have historically used designs that are difficult to interpret due to confounding problems. Recently, designs based on a "response function" approach have been proposed and tested in various plant mixture settings. For this study, 3 species were used that are important in current revegetation practices in the Intermountain West. 'Nordan' (Agropyron desertorum [Fish. ex Link] Shult.) and 'Hycrest' (A. cristatum [L.] Gaertn. x desertorum) crested wheatgrass are commonly-used revegetation species on rangelands susceptible to cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) invasion, although little quantitative data exist that compare their competitive abilities. We evaluated the competitive ability of...
Many studies have investigated the ecological effects of roads and roadsides as both habitat and dispersal corridors for exotic plant species. Several of these compared roadside exotic species richness and abundance with adjacent interior habitats, but we found no studies of individual exotic species' abundance between the two habitats in the context of prescribed fire. We measured exotic species richness and individual species' abundance along roadsides and in adjacent interior habitat (> 150 m) before and after prescribed fire at three ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex Lawson & C. Lawson) sites in northern Arizona. Eighteen of the 20 exotic plant species found in this study have been and continue to be...
Relationships between vegetal and edaphic factors and infiltration rates and erosion as measured on 550 infiltrometer plots at chained pinyon-juniper sites in Utah were analyzed by multiple regression analysis. Those factors most important for predicting infiltration rates (regardless of time interval) included total porosity in the O-3 inch layer of soil, percent bare soil surface, soil texture in the O-3 inch layer of soil, and crown cover (percent or tons per acre). The ability to predict infiltration rates (as determined by R2) varied with time and geographic location. Not only did predictive ability vary, but independent variables explaining such variance also changed with time and location. Factors that influence...
A field experiment using 2 patterns of irrigation and 1 level of nitrogen fertilizer (10 g-N m-2) was conducted in order to discern water and nitrogen interactions that may control production of creosotebush, (Larrea tridentata (D.C.) Cov. The 2 patterns of irrigation simulated precipitation from small, frequent events (6 mm water added weekly) or large, infrequent events (25 mm water added monthly). Understanding the factors controlling the production of this rangeland shrub may aid in the development of strategies for its management. Vegetative growth occurred mostly during March-May (spring) and August-October (summer-fall). Fruit production occurred mainly in the spring and root growth occurred mainly in the...
Piñon–juniper is a major vegetation type in western North America. Effective management of these ecosystems has been hindered by inadequate understanding of 1) the variability in ecosystem structure and ecological processes that exists among the diverse combinations of piñons, junipers, and associated shrubs, herbs, and soil organisms; 2) the prehistoric and historic disturbance regimes; and 3) the mechanisms driving changes in vegetation structure and composition during the past 150 yr. This article summarizes what we know (and don't know) about three fundamentally different kinds of piñon–juniper vegetation. Persistent woodlands are found where local soils, climate, and disturbance regimes are favorable...


map background search result map search result map Effect of Mesquite on Physical and Chemical Properties of the Soil Influence of Livestock Grazing and Climate on Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis) Dynamics - Rangeland Ecology & Management Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on an Arid Grassland in the Colorado Plateau Cold Desert Spatial Modeling of Biological Soil Crusts to Support Rangeland Assessment and Monitoring Broad-Scale Assessment of Rangeland Health, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, USA Effect of Mesquite on Physical and Chemical Properties of the Soil Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on an Arid Grassland in the Colorado Plateau Cold Desert Influence of Livestock Grazing and Climate on Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis) Dynamics - Rangeland Ecology & Management Broad-Scale Assessment of Rangeland Health, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, USA Spatial Modeling of Biological Soil Crusts to Support Rangeland Assessment and Monitoring