Interactions of Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana (mountain big sagebrush) and neighboring herbs may affect community development following fire in sagebrush steppe. Dry mass, photosynthesis, and water relations were measured for seedlings of A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana occurring at different distances from neighboring herbs in the initial growing seasons following fire, when herbs dominate plant community cover. Seedling mass significantly increased as distance to neighboring herbs increased, although a low r2 indicated that mass was also affected by other sources of variation. Carbon assimilation (Anet) was also greater for A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana seedlings in microsites farther from herbs, except during those sampling dates when Anet and water availability were at low levels. Contrary to our expectations, water status of seedlings was not correlated with their distances to neighboring herbs, and supplemental watering did not affect the slope of the relationship between seedling mass and distance to neighboring herbs. These findings suggest that negative relationships between A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana seedlings and herbs establishing after fire are not likely due to competition over water and may instead result from interactions over factors not measured here (e.g., nutrients).
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