The effects of burning in mountain big sagebrush on key sage grouse habitat characteristics in southeastern Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8910jz707

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  • Sage grouse are a species of concern because their abundance, distribution, and productivity have declined during the past century. Sage grouse productivity has been linked to specific habitat components including particular forbs and native bunchgrasses. Studies on the effects of fire were conducted in Southeastern Oregon in mountain big sagebrush communities to better understand the effects of fire on key sage grouse habitat components. The short-term study was conducted at South Steens Mountain during 1997 and 1998. Habitat components (medium shrub cover; perennial grass cover; hen and chick food forb cover, frequency, and availability; chick food forb nutrition; insect abundance; and sagebrush reproductive branch abundance) were compared between preburn or unburned, 1- year post-bum, and 2-years post-burn areas. The long-term effects of fire on essential sage grouse habitat components were studied during 1997 at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (Lake County), and during 1998 at South Steens Mountain (Harney County). Habitat components (medium height mountain big sagebrush, tall grass, hen and chick food forb, and other forb cover) were measured at burned and adjacent unburned control sites and compared with recommended cover amounts. Burned sites ranged in age from 5 to 43 years. In the short-term fire effects study, prescribed burning increased the amount of sage grouse hen and chick foods, the quality of some chick foods, and increased the amount of time of these foods were available. Sagebrush cover was essentially eliminated in burned areas. Perennial grass cover was significantly higher in a comparison of the 2-years post burn to the 1-year post burn samples. In the long-term fire effects study, all key vegetative and structural components needed for successful sage grouse reproduction became available in burned areas from 25-35 years old. Sagebrush cover was the only habitat component tested that was substantially affected by burning in the long term. Prescribed burning would be most beneficial to sage grouse habitat if used as a management tool to create a mosaic of needed habitat components.
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