This study was conducted to compare data from 12 grazed and ungrazed areas and to examine the impacts of grazing treatments on a montane willow community during an 11-year period. Data were collected on willow canopy cover, species diversity, height, and stem density in a montane riparian ecosystem between 1988 and 1999 from 4 grazing treatments: long-term grazing (since the early 1900s), long-term grazing exclusion (exclosures built in the 1950s), recent grazing (sections of exclosures opened in 1988), and recent grazing exclusion (exclosures built in 1988). Willow canopy cover increased significantly for all treatments through time, with the recent grazing exclusion treatment becoming similar to that of the long-term exclusion treatment within 5 years. Species diversity was greatest in the long-term grazed treatment. Willow height averaged over treatments increased from 1988 to 1997 (P = 0.0001), but did not increase significantly after that. Height in the long-term exclosure averaged over time from 1988 to 1997 was 1.5 times greater than in the long-term grazing treatment. Stem density of willows was significantly greater in the recent exclosure than in the long-term exclosure (P = 0.008, 180%) and recent grazing treatments (P = 0.02, 120%). Recent grazing exclusion resulted in the greatest increase in canopy cover, height growth, and stem density during the 11 years of study, indicating that these variables respond positively to removal of livestock grazing. Results suggest that continued long-term grazing exclusion may lead to a closed canopy, lower willow species diversity, reduction in new stem height growth, and reduced stem recruitment. Information on the dynamics of willow growth under different grazing treatments should help resource managers determine appropriate livestock utilization levels in similar riparian areas, and develop management plans for these important ecosystems.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2