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1 March 2007 The Influence of Gap Size on Sagebrush Cover Estimates With the Use of Line Intercept Technique
Chad S. Boyd, Jon D. Bates, Rick F. Miller
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Sagebrush cover is often estimated with the use of the line intercept method. However, a lack of standardized protocols may lead to variable estimates of sagebrush canopy cover. Our objectives were to determine the influence of gap size on 1) sagebrush canopy cover estimates, 2) time needed to read a transect, and 3) among-observer variability in sagebrush canopy cover estimates. We utilized 5-, 10-, and 15-cm gaps, and defined a gap as a lack of continuous live or dead shrub canopy. In instances where a segment of dead cover was less than the gap size and adjoined live cover, the dead cover was measured as live. We evaluated canopy cover at 6 Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. Wyomingensis Beetle & A. Young) sites in southeast Oregon. At each site, four 2-person teams measured sagebrush canopy intercept along 50-m transects. Each transect was read by multiple teams to allow for assessment of among-observer variability. Intercept values were converted to percent canopy cover and we used analysis of variance to determine the influence of site and gap size on measurement time and cover estimates. Observer variability was highest at the intermediate gap size (i.e., 10 cm). Transect measurement time was longest with the use of a 5-cm gap (P < 0.001). Total cover estimates were not related to gap size (P = 0.270). Live canopy cover estimates increased (P < 0.001) from 12.1% to 14.5% with increasing gap size, and cover of dead material decreased (P = 0.015) from 4.4% to 3.2%. These differences are small in magnitude and would not likely change a gross assessment of vegetation status. However, use of a standardized gap size will enhance comparability of canopy cover estimates among studies and will decrease between-year sampling error for repeat monitoring.

Chad S. Boyd, Jon D. Bates, and Rick F. Miller "The Influence of Gap Size on Sagebrush Cover Estimates With the Use of Line Intercept Technique," Rangeland Ecology and Management 60(2), 199-202, (1 March 2007).
Received: 19 December 2005; Accepted: 1 November 2006; Published: 1 March 2007

sagebrush obligate
Vegetation inventory
wildlife habitat
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