Within the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, sagebrush plants influence a number of ecosystem properties, including nutrient distribution, plant species diversity, soil moisture, and temperature, and provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. Recent increases in frequency and size of wildfires and associated annual grass expansion within the Wyoming big sagebrush alliance have increased the need for effective sagebrush restoration tools and protocols. Our objectives were to quantify the success of Wyoming big sagebrush transplants relative to transplant stock (nursery seedlings vs. wildlings) across different ecological sites and vegetation types and to test the hypothesis that reduction of herbaceous vegetation would increase survival of transplanted sagebrush. We used a randomized block (reps = 5) design at each of three sites—1) cheatgrass dominated, 2) native plant dominated, and 3) crested wheatgrass dominated—near Elko, Nevada. Treatments included plant stock (nursery stock or locally harvested wildlings) and herbicide (glyphosate) to reduce competition from herbaceous vegetation. Transplants were planted in the spring of 2009 and 2010 and monitored for survival. Data were analyzed for site and treatment effects using mixed-model ANOVA. Surviving plant density at and 2 yr postplanting was generally highest (up to 3-fold) on the native site (P < 0.05). Density of surviving transplants was almost 3-fold higher for nursery stock on most sites for the 2009 planting, but differences in survival by planting stock were minimal for the 2010 planting. Glyphosate application increased surviving plant density up to 300% (depending on site) for both years of planting. High labor and plant material investments (relative to traditional drilling or broadcasting) may limit the size of projects for which sagebrush transplants are practical, but these costs may be partially offset by high success relative to traditional methods. Our data indicate that sagebrush transplants can be effective for establishing sagebrush on depleted sites.
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Vol. 66 • No. 3