Grazing effects on shrub-induced resource islands and herbaceous vegetation heterogeneity in sagebrush-steppe communities

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We investigated the long-term (+80 yrs.) effects of moderate grazing by cattle on sagebrush-induced spatial heterogeneity in soil nutrients, herbaceous vegetation, and ground cover in sagebrush-bunchgrass steppe communities at eight sites in southeastern Oregon. Each site consisted of a long-term grazing exclosure and an adjacent grazed area. Almost all measured herbaceous vegetation (cover, density, diversity, and evenness) and ground cover variables differed between canopy and interspace microsites. Grazing did not influence the effects of microsites on most measured herbaceous vegetation characteristics and ground cover variables. Available soil nutrients were not influenced by grazing, but the majority differed between microsites. The limited effect of moderate grazing on shrub-induced spatial heterogeneity provides evidence that sagebrush exerts a strong influence on patterns of soil nutrients and herbaceous vegetation in sagebrush-bunchgrass communities.

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