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The influence of plant removal on succession in Wyoming big sagebrush
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Restoration treatments are based on the largely untested notion that desired recovery of plant communities following disturbance wouldn’t occur in the absence of active intervention. We identified rate of short-term (10 year) floristic changes following removal of plant functional groups in Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities in 1999–2005 and 2008. Treatments imposed on 6 × 6 m plots were: 1) removal of all plant functional groups, 2) perennial grass removal, 3) shrub removal and 4) control. Our data suggest recovery of the shrub component on shrub removal plots could take decades. Similarly, perennial grass cover and density on perennial grass removal plots was less than half that of unaltered plots 10 years after treatment. When all functional groups were removed, cover of annual forbs, annual grasses, and shrubs returned to unaltered levels within ten years or less. Perennial forbs were unaffected (p > 0.05) by treatment. The fact that natural recovery of some components occurred within a relatively short post-disturbance time interval (i.e. <10 years) suggests that intervention may not be necessary for some functional groups. Restoring shrubs in areas dominated by perennial grasses may require targeted reductions of competing perennial grasses. Conversely, shrub dominance may limit perennial grass re-establishment.
Journal of arid environments 2011 Aug., v. 75, issue 8
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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