Disturbance type and sagebrush community type affect community structure after shrub removal

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This study analyzed effect sizes to assess responses of sagebrush, perennial and annual grasses and forbs, and ground cover to treatments. Most treatments successfully reduced sagebrush cover over the short and long term. All treatments increased long-term perennial grass cover in Wyoming big sagebrush communities, but in mountain big sagebrush communities, perennial grasses increased only when seeded after fire. In both sagebrush communities, treatments generally resulted in short-term, but not long-term, increases in perennial forb cover. Annual grasses increased in all treatments on sites dominated by mountain big sagebrush but stayed constant or decreased on sites dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush. This result was unexpected because sites dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush are typically thought to be less resilient to disturbance and less resistant to invasion than sites dominated by mountain big sagebrush. Together, these results indicate some of the benefits, risks, and contingent outcomes of sagebrush reduction treatments that should be considered carefully in any future decisions about applying such treatments.

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