Community analysis of the Wyoming big sagebrush alliance and functional role of Wyoming big sagebrush Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/5t34sm71b

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  • This study consisted of two research projects in the Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis (Beetle & A. Young) S.L. Welsh) alliance, the most extensive of the big sagebrush complex in the Intermountain West. In the first project, we intensively sampled 107 relatively undisturbed, late seral Wyoming big sagebrush sites across the High Desert, Humboldt, and western Snake River Ecological Provinces to investigate vegetation heterogeneity and the relationship of environmental factors with vegetation characteristics. Vegetation characteristics were highly variable across the region. Perennial grass and total herbaceous cover varied more than six and sevenfold, respectively between minimum and maximum values. Sagebrush cover averaged 12%, but ranged between 3 and 25%. With the exception of perennial grass cover (p<0.0001, r²=0.52), limited variability in other vegetation characteristics was explained by environmental variables. In the second project, we investigated the functional role of Wyoming big sagebrush by using undisturbed and sagebrush removed (with burning) treatments and comparing vegetation and microsite characteristics under (subcanopy) to between sagebrush canopy (interspace) zones. Wyoming big sagebrush influenced associated vegetation and microsites. On sites receiving high incidental radiation, perennial grass and total herbaceous cover and density were greater in the subcanopy than interspace zones (p<0.05). On north aspects, these differences were not as pronounced suggesting sagebrush's influence on associated vegetation is site dependent. Temperature extremes were mediated and soil water content was greater in the subcanopy than interspace zones during the growing season. Results indicated that the subcanopy zone can be a more favorable environment to herbaceous vegetation than the interspace zone. Wyoming big sagebrush is important to community resource capture and use. Plots with sagebrush had greater soil water content at the start of the growing season and produced more total biomass compared to where sagebrush had been removed in both post-fire years (p<0.05). However, higher Thurber's needlegrass photosynthetic rates and greater herbaceous cover and production where sagebrush had been removed suggested that more resources were available to herbaceous vegetation in the absence of sagebrush.
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