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1 July 2017 Understory Responses to Tree Thinning and Seeding Indicate Stability of Degraded Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands
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Abstract

Depauperate understory plant communities resulting from intensive livestock grazing in pinyon-juniper woodlands of the western United States may represent degraded stable states, resistant to ecological restoration treatments. In this study, we analyzed 10-yr understory plant community responses to restoration treatments that included tree thinning to approximate historical densities of pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Juniperus osteosperma), scattering of thinning slash to improve soil conditions, and seeding at two woodland sites (Craig Ranch and Goose Pond) in northwestern Arizona. Results showed that thinning resulted in significant reductions in tree density at both sites, as well as reductions in tree basal area at the Goose Pond site. Boles, branches, and tops of the thinned trees scattered across the study sites resulted in few changes to woody surface fuel loading. Thinning and addition of woody material, along with seeding, resulted in only minor changes in understory cover and species richness at both sites. However, plant cover and species richness were both negatively correlated with tree density. Degraded conditions at the sites appeared to be stable, and we suggest that treatments implemented in our studies may have not been intensive enough to produce significant understory responses and meet restoration objectives. Managers aiming to restore understory diversity at similar sites may be required to use heavier thinning prescriptions and repeated seeding. More work is needed to test new restoration approaches that are designed to drive degraded pinyon-juniper woodlands over resilience thresholds toward more diverse understory communities.

© 2017 The Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
David W. Huffman, Michael T. Stoddard, Judith D. Springer, and Joseph E. Crouse "Understory Responses to Tree Thinning and Seeding Indicate Stability of Degraded Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands," Rangeland Ecology and Management 70(4), 484-492, (1 July 2017). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2017.01.008
Received: 6 April 2016; Accepted: 1 January 2017; Published: 1 July 2017
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