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1 January 2009 Postfire Succession in Big Sagebrush Steppe With Livestock Grazing
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Abstract

Prescribed fire in rangeland ecosystems is applied for a variety of management objectives, including enhancing productivity of forage species for domestic livestock. In the big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) steppe of the western United States, fire has been a natural and prescribed disturbance, temporarily shifting vegetation from shrub–grass codominance to grass dominance. There is limited information on the impacts of grazing to community dynamics following fire in big sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated cattle grazing impacts over four growing seasons after prescribed fire on Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. Wyomingensis [Beetle & Young] Welsh) 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 trials were applied from 2003 to 2005. Vegetation dynamics in the treatments were evaluated by quantifying herbaceous canopy cover, density, annual yield, and perennial grass seed yield. Seed production was greater in the ungrazed burn treatments than in all burn–grazed treatments; however, these differences did not affect community recovery after fire. Other herbaceous response variables (cover, density, composition, and annual yield), bare ground, and soil surface litter did not differ among grazed and ungrazed burn treatments. All burn treatments (grazed and ungrazed) had greater herbaceous cover, herbaceous standing crop, herbaceous annual yield, and grass 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, prescribed fire will not hinder the recovery of herbaceous plant communities in Wyoming big sagebrush steppe.

Received: 7 April 2008; Accepted: 1 November 2008; Published: 1 January 2009
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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