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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Postfire Succession in Big Sagebrush Steppe With Livestock Grazing

Authors
item Bates, Jonathan
item Rhodes, Edward - TEXAS A&M
item Davies, Kirk
item Sharp, Robert -

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 7, 2008
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/30041
Citation: Bates, J.D., Rhodes, E., Davies, K.W., Sharp, R. 2009. Postfire Succession in Big Sagebrush Steppe With Livestock Grazing. Rangeland Ecology and Management 62(1)

Interpretive Summary: In the big sagebrush steppe of the western United States, fire has been a natural and prescribed disturbance temporarily shifting vegetation from shrub-grass co-dominance to grass dominance. There is limited information on the impacts of grazing to community dynamics following fire in sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated several summer and spring cattle grazing treatments to plant community recovery over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on big sagebrush steppe in eastern Oregon. There were no differences in recovery of herbaceous diversity, cover, and productivity among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. The results demonstrated that properly applied livestock grazing after fire will not hinder the recovery of herbaceous plant communities in big sagebrush steppe.

Technical Abstract: Prescribed fire in rangeland ecosystems is applied for a variety of management objectives including enhancing productivity of forage species for domestic livestock. In big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) steppe of the western United States, fire has been a natural and prescribed disturbance temporarily shifting vegetation from shrub-grass co-dominance to grass dominance. There is limited information on the impacts of grazing to community dynamics following fire in sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated cattle grazing impacts over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. Wyomingensis (Beetle & Young) Welsh) steppe in eastern Oregon. Treatments included no grazing on burned and unburned sagebrush steppe, two summer grazing applications after fire, and two spring grazing applications after fire. Treatment plots were burned in fall 2002. Grazing trials were applied in 2003-2005. Vegetation responses to treatments were evaluated by quantifying herbaceous canopy cover, density, standing crop, annual production, and perennial grass seed yield. Standing crop and seed production were greater in the ungrazed burn treatment than all burn-grazed treatments; however, these differences were not affecting community recovery after fire. Herbaceous response variables (cover, density, and production), bare ground, and litter did not differ among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. Burn treatments (grazed and ungrazed) had greater herbaceous cover, standing crop, herbaceous production, and seed yield than the unburned treatment by the second or third year after fire. The results demonstrated that properly applied livestock grazing after low severity fire will not hinder the recovery of herbaceous plant communities in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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