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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: RANGELAND RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT Title: Grazing after Fire in the Sagebrush-Steppe

Authors
item Bates, Jonathan
item Rhodes, Ed - TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
item Davies, Kirk
item Sharp, Rob - BLM-BURNS, OR

Submitted to: Extension Reports
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: May 1, 2008
Publication Date: June 1, 2008
Citation: Bates, J.D., Rhodes, E., Davies, K.W., Sharp, R. 2008. Grazing after fire in the sagebrush-steppe. Extension Reports. Range Field Day 2008 Progress Report. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1085. Burns, OR. pp. 9-18.

Interpretive Summary: : In sagebrush rangelands 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 ecosystem. This study evaluated cattle grazing impacts over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on Wyoming big sagebrush 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 was applied in 2003-2005. Vegetation responses to treatments were evaluated by quantifying plant cover, density, standing crop, production, and measuring perennial grass seed production. Standing crop and seed production were greater in the ungrazed burn treatment than all grazed burn treatments; however, these differences were not affecting community recovery after fire. Herbaceous response variables (cover, density, and production), bare ground, and litter cover did not differ among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. Burn treatments (grazed and ungrazed) had greater herbaceous cover, standing crop, herbaceous production, and seed production 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 slow or reduce the recovery of plant communities in big sagebrush steppe.

Technical Abstract: In sagebrush rangelands 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 ecosystem. This study evaluated cattle grazing impacts over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on Wyoming big sagebrush 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 was applied in 2003-2005. Vegetation responses to treatments were evaluated by quantifying plant cover, density, standing crop, production, and measuring perennial grass seed production. Standing crop and seed production were greater in the ungrazed burn treatment than all grazed burn treatments; however, these differences were not affecting community recovery after fire. Herbaceous response variables (cover, density, and production), bare ground, and litter cover did not differ among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. Burn treatments (grazed and ungrazed) had greater herbaceous cover, standing crop, herbaceous production, and seed production 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 slow or reduce the recovery of plant communities in big sagebrush steppe.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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