Broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae [Pursh] Britt. & Rusby) is an aggressive native invasive species that thrives after disturbance in semiarid rangelands of the western United States. A 5-yr (2002–2006) study was initiated following grazing and fire disturbances on an Upland Gravelly Loam ecological site in the sagebrush steppe of northern Utah, to evaluate broom snakeweed invasion in different plant communities. The study site originally had two plant communities: a sagebrush/bunchgrass community that received alternate-year, fall cattle grazing, and was dominated by bluebunch wheatgrass (Elymus spicatus) and an open stand of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis), and a sagebrush community that received continuous, annual, spring cattle grazing that removed the bunchgrasses, leaving a dense stand of Wyoming big sagebrush with an understory of Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda). Portions of these two plant communities were burned in a wildfire in 2001, removing the sagebrush, and creating two additional communities. The burned portion of the sagebrush/bunchgrass community became a bluebunch wheatgrass–dominated community, and the burned portion of the sagebrush community became a snakeweed-dominated community. Foliar cover, aboveground biomass, and sagebrush and snakeweed densities were compared among the four communities. Mature snakeweed plants that existed in the sagebrush/bunchgrass community were eliminated in 2003, because of drought conditions. Snakeweed was eliminated in the bluebunch wheatgrass community by the wildfire in 2001, and there was no reestablishment. Snakeweed density and cover remained constant in the sagebrush community. Snakeweed cover increased from 2% to 31% in the snakeweed community, despite the presence of Sandberg bluegrass. The data were used to evaluate and update the current Upland Gravelly Loam (Wyoming big sagebrush) ecological site description in the Great Salt Lake Major Land Resource Area and its state-and-transition model to reflect vegetation changes associated with snakeweed invasion.
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Vol. 61 • No. 3