Sagebrush

Sagebrush and aspen landscape

Great Basin-Focused Events from #SRM2021

We are hosting several workshops, symposia as part of the 2021 Society for Range Management annual meeting. **You do not need to be registered for the SRM meeting to attend.

Strategic Targeted Grazing to Reduce Fine Fuels (Feb 16, 1:30-4:00 PST/2:30-5:00 MST)

The Strategic Grazing symposium was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It provides updates on the Idaho and Nevada strategic grazing demonstration areas. Symposium recording.

Sagebrush Ecosystem Recovery 10+ Yrs after Treatments (Feb 17, 1:30-3:30 PST/2:30-4:30 MST)
The Sagebrush Ecosystem symposium provides Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) updates. It was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It shares what’s been learned after at least 10 years post-treatment. Symposium recording.

Big Sagebrush Restoration Status (Feb 18, 1:30-4:00 PST/2:30-5:00 MST)
The Big Sagebrush symposium was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It was brought to you by the Rangeland Equipment and Technology Council (RTEC).  Symposium recording.

Sagebrush mtn. landscape

Big sagebrush restoration status

Symposium agenda

The Big Sagebrush symposium will be held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It is brought to you by the Rangeland Equipment and Technology Council (RTEC).

**You do not need to be registered for the SRM meeting to join.

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Measuring height characteristics of sagebrush using imagery derived from small unmanned aerial systems

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In situ measurements of sagebrush have traditionally been expensive and time consuming. Currently, improvements in small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) technology can be used to quantify sagebrush morphology and community structure with high resolution imagery on western rangelands, especially in sensitive habitat of the Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The emergence of photogrammetry algorithms to generate 3D point clouds from true color imagery can potentially increase the efficiency and accuracy of measuring shrub height in sage-grouse habitat. Our objective was to determine optimal parameters for measuring sagebrush height including flight altitude, single- vs. double- pass, and continuous vs. pause features. We acquired imagery using a DJI Mavic Pro 2 multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) equipped with an RGB camera, flown at 30.5, 45, 75, and 120 m and implementing single-pass and double-pass methods, using continuous flight and paused flight for each photo method. We generated a Digital Surface Model (DSM) from which we derived plant height, and then performed an accuracy assessment using on the ground measurements taken at the time of flight. We found high correlation between field measured heights and estimated heights, with a mean difference of approximately 10 cm (SE = 0.4 cm) and little variability in accuracy between flights with different heights and other parameters after statistical correction using linear regression. We conclude that higher altitude flights using a single-pass method are optimal to measure sagebrush height due to lower requirements in data storage and processing time.

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Nevada Society for Range Management Suggested Reading – Fall 2020

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Abstracts of Recent Papers on Range Management in the West. Prepared by Charlie Clements, Rangeland Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Reno, NV.

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Unburned remnant sagebrush vs. outplants in post-fire rehabilitation

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This study’s objective was to determine whether remnant/unburned sagebrush patches contribute to sagebrush recovery in surrounding burned areas surrounding them.

Key Findings:

While conventional wisdom is that sagebrush seeds remain close to the mother plant, we found that a measurable percentage of seeds travel up to tens of meters. Remnant patches of sagebrush after fire could contribute to natural regeneration in surrounding landscapes. However, seed arrival was highly variable between sites and work remains to be done to predict where natural regeneration will be sufficient to rehabilitate sagebrush steppe after wildfire.

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Fire behavior and ecology of the shrub steppe

Webinar recording.

Alison Dean, Central Oregon Fire Management Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and Marth Brabec, City of Boise, will provide an overview of historic and modern fire behavior in different communities of the sagebrush biome, shrub steppe ecology, and post-fire restoration considerations.

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Interpreting indicators of rangeland health- Version 5

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The Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) protocol is designed for assessing ecosystem function on rangelands and woodlands. The protocol was developed by an interagency cadre of technical experts and has been in use by for two decades. The protocol is well accepted and is a valuable tool for communicating rangeland conditions with stakeholders. Technical Reference 1734-6 Version 4, which describes the IIRH protocol, was published in 2005.

Refinements and improvements identified through 12 years of experience with class participants and field office personnel applying the protocol as outlined in Version 4 are incorporated into Version 5 of the technical reference. Indicators and attributes used in previous versions of the technical reference are largely the same, and following instructions in Version 5 is not expected to result in differing attribute ratings as compared to assessments completed using Version 4 of TR 1734-6 assuming that the same reference information is used.

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Long-term effects of tree expansion and reduction on soil climate in a semiarid ecosystem

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Because the effects of tree reduction on vegetation can vary with the soil temperature/moisture regime, we also analyzed differences in soil climate variables between the mesic/aridic‐xeric and frigid/xeric regime classifications for our sites. Growing conditions during all seasons except spring were greatly limited by lack of available water, low temperatures, or both. Advanced tree expansion reduced wet days (total hours per 24 hr when hourly average soil water matric potential >−1.5 MPa), especially in early spring. Fire and mechanical tree reduction increased wet days and wet degree days (sum of hourly soil temperatures >0°C when soil is wet per 24 hr) compared with no treatment for most seasons. Burning resulted in higher soil temperatures than untreated or mechanically treated woodlands. Tree reduction at advanced expansion phases increased wet days in spring more than when implemented at earlier phases of expansion. Added wet days from tree reduction were negatively associated with October through June precipitation and vegetation cover, rather than time since treatment, with more wet days added on drier sites and years. The longer period of water availability in spring supports increased growth and cover of not only shrubs and perennial herbs, but also invasive weeds on warmer and drier sites, for many years after tree reduction. We found that sites classified as mesic/aridic‐xeric had warmer soil temperatures all seasons and were drier in spring and winter than sites classified as frigid/xeric. Land managers should consider reducing trees at earlier phases of expansion or consider revegetation when treating at advanced phases on these warmer and drier sites that lack perennial herb potential.

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Post‐fire growth of seeded and planted big sagebrush – strategic designs for restoring greater sage‐grouse nesting habitat

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Wildfires change plant community structure and impact wildlife habitat and population dynamics. Recent wildfire‐induced losses of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in North American shrublands are outpacing natural recovery and leading to substantial losses in habitat for sagebrush‐obligate species such as Greater Sage‐grouse. Managers are considering restoration strategies that include planting container‐grown sagebrush to improve establishment within areas using more conventional seeding methods. Although it is thought that planting sagebrush provides initial structural advantages over seeding, empirical comparisons of sagebrush growth are lacking between individuals established post‐fire using both methods. Using a Bayesian hierarchical approach, we evaluated sagebrush height and canopy area growth rates for plants established in 26 seeded and 20 planted locations within the Great Basin. We then related recovery rates to previously published nesting habitat requirements for sage‐grouse. Under average weather conditions, planted or seeded sagebrush will require 3 or 4 years, respectively, and a relatively high density (≥ 2 plants/m2) to achieve the minimum recommended canopy cover for sage‐grouse (15 %). Sagebrush grown in warmer and drier conditions met this cover goal months earlier. Although planted sagebrush reached heights to meet sage‐grouse nesting requirements (30 cm) one year earlier than seeded plants, seeded individuals were ~19 cm taller with 410 cm2 more canopy area than planted sagebrush after 8 years. However, big sagebrush establishment from seed is unreliable. Strategically planting small, high density patches of container‐grown sagebrush in historic sage‐grouse nesting habitat combined with lower density seedings in larger surrounding areas may accelerate sage‐grouse habitat restoration.

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Shrub management handbook for Utah rangelands

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This handbook is a guide to developing realistic project plans and implementing appropriate management strategies by enhancing your understanding of basic shrub biology, ecological concepts,and management principles.

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