Sagebrush

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Interannual variation in climate contributes to post‐fire restoration outcomes in seeded sagebrush steppe

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Across the Great Basin, sagebrush growth increased in wetter, cooler springs; however, the importance of spring weather varied with sites’ long‐term climates, suggesting differing ecophysiological limitations across sagebrush’s range. Incorporation of spring weather, including from the “planting year,” improved predictions of sagebrush recovery, but these advances were small compared to contributions of time‐invariant site characteristics. Given extreme weather conditions threatening this ecosystem, explicit consideration of weather could improve the allocation of management resources, such as by identifying areas requiring repeated treatments; but improved forecasts of shifting mean conditions with climate change may more significantly aid the prediction of sagebrush recovery.

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Fuel reduction treatments reduce modeled fire intensity in the sagebrush steppe

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This study used the Fuel and Fire Tool fire behavior modeling program to test whether treatments impacted potential fire behavior. Prescribed fire initially removed 49% of the total fuel load and 75% of shrubs, and fuel loads remained reduced through Year 10. Mowing shifted fuels from the shrub canopy to the ground surface but did not change the total fuel amount. Prescribed fire and mowing increased herbaceous fuel by the second posttreatment year and that trend persisted through Year 10. Tebuthiuron treatments were ineffective at altering fuel loads. Imazapic suppressed herbaceous vegetation by 30% in Years 2 and 3 following treatment. The modified fuel beds in fire and mow treatments resulted in modeled flame lengths that were significantly lower than untreated control plots for the duration of the study, with shorter term reductions in reaction intensity and rate of spread. Understanding fuel treatment effectiveness will allow natural resource managers to evaluate trade-offs between protecting wildlife habitat and reducing the potential for high-intensity wildfire.

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Fuel reductions reduce modeled fire intensity in sagebrush steppe

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This study presents 10 years of data on fuel accumulation and the resultant modeled fire behavior in prescribed fire, mowed, herbicide (tebuthiuron or imazapic), and untreated control plots in the Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) network in the Great Basin, USA. Fuel data (i.e., aboveground burnable live and dead biomass) were collected in each treatment plot at Years 0 (pretreatment), 1, 2, 3, 6, and 10 posttreatment. We used the Fuel and Fire Tool fire behavior modeling program to test whether treatments impacted potential fire behavior. Prescribed fire initially removed 49% of the total fuel load and 75% of shrubs, and fuel loads remained reduced through Year 10. Mowing shifted fuels from the shrub canopy to the ground surface but did not change the total fuel amount. Prescribed fire and mowing increased herbaceous fuel by the second posttreatment year and that trend persisted through Year 10. Tebuthiuron treatments were ineffective at altering fuel loads. Imazapic suppressed herbaceous vegetation by 30% in Years 2 and 3 following treatment. The modified fuel beds in fire and mow treatments resulted in modeled flame lengths that were significantly lower than untreated control plots for the duration of the study, with shorter term reductions in reaction intensity and rate of spread. Understanding fuel treatment effectiveness will allow natural resource managers to evaluate trade-offs between protecting wildlife habitat and reducing the potential for high-intensity wildfire.

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Cal-Pac Section Society for Range Management’s 2022 Spring Meeting

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Event registration.

The meeting will be in Alturas, CA. Cost for full day is $70 for members, $75 for non-members. Cost for morning only is $40 for all, $25 for students. Full registration includes morning presentations, tour, snacks, lunch and BBQ Dinner. Morning includes snacks, lunch and morning presentations.

Student lodging available: Camping at Howard’s Gulch $15/night or Hotel Niles.

Regular lodging available: Hotel Niles or the Trailside Inn.

 

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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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Moderate grazing in fall-winter reduces exotic annual grasses in sagebrush-bunchgrass steppe

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We compared moderate grazing during the off season with not grazing in five Wyoming big sagebrush−bunchgrass communities in the northern Great Basin. Treatments were applied annually for 10 yr (2009−2010 through 2018−2019). Plant community characteristics were measured after treatments had been applied from 6 to 10 yr. Off-season grazing reduced exotic annual grass density and cover. After a decade, annual grass cover was twofold greater in ungrazed areas. Sandberg bluegrass density increased with off-season grazing, but large bunchgrass density was similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed areas. Perennial and annual forb density and cover were similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed treatments. Biological soil crust cover was also similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed areas.

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What’s driving the proliferation of exotic annual grasses in sagebrush? Comparing fire with off-season grazing

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We compared 1) burned and ungrazed (burned), 2) off-season, moderately grazed and unburned (grazed), and 3) ungrazed and unburned (control) treatments at five Wyoming big sagebrush sites in southeastern Oregon for half a decade. Fire, but not off-season grazing, substantially increased exotic annual grass cover and abundance. Vegetation cover and density were generally similar between grazed and control areas. In contrast, at the end of the study exotic annual grass cover and density were over fourfold greater in burned areas. Exotic annual grass became the dominant plant group in burned areas, but not in grazed and control areas. Cover and density of annual forbs, predominately non-native species, were generally greater in the burned compared with grazed and control treatments. Fire also decreased soil biological crust cover and sagebrush cover and density compared with grazed and control treatments. This study provides strong evidence that fire is a threat to the sustainability of Wyoming big sagebrush communities at risk of exotic annual grass dominance, but that off-season, moderate grazing poses little risk. However, considering the spatial extent of our study was limited, further evaluations are needed across a larger geographic area.

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Bridging the gap between spatial modeling and management of invasive annual grasses in sagebrush

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This study involved a review of available spatial products to assess advances in, and barriers to, applying contemporary model-based maps to support rangeland management. We found dozens of regional data products describing cheatgrass or annual herbaceous cover and few maps describing ventenata or medusahead. Over the past decade, IAG spatial data increased in spatial and temporal resolution and increasingly used response variables that indicate the severity of infestation such as percent cover. Despite improvements, use of such data is limited by the time required to find, compare, understand, and translate model-based maps into management strategy. There is also a need for products with higher spatial resolution and accuracy. In collaboration with a multipartner stakeholder group, we identified key considerations that guide selection of IAG spatial data products for use by land managers and other users. On the basis of these considerations, we discuss issues that contribute to a research-implementation gap between users and product developers and suggest future directions for improved development of management-ready spatial products.

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Influence of grazing and weather on sagebrush birds

Webinar recording.

Description: Effects of juniper encroachment and removal on multiple wildlife species in the Steens Mountains area and quantifying effects of grazing on sagebrush ecosystems and associated wildlife.

Presenter: Vanessa Schroeder is a faculty research assistant at Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center-Burns, which is in the heart of Oregons’s sagebrush country. She holds a master’s degree in Wildlife Science from OSU.

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Science for resource managers- Bibliography search tool

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This Science for Resource Managers tool provides online, searchable access to multiple published annotated bibliographies on priority management topics for resource managers, currently focused primarily on issues relevant to lands in the western U.S.

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