Jonathan D. Bates, Kirk W. Davies
Rangeland Ecology and Management 67 (4), 412-422, (1 July 2014) https://doi.org/10.2111/REM-D-14-00011.1
KEYWORDS: bunchgrass, fire, stocking rate, utilization, Wyoming big sagebrush
There is limited information about the effects of cattle grazing to longer-term plant community composition and herbage production following fire in sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated vegetation response to cattle grazing over 7 yr (2007–2013) on burned Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis [Beetle & Young] Welsh) steppe in eastern Oregon. Treatments, replicated four times and applied in a randomized complete block design, included no grazing on burned (nonuse) and unburned (control) sagebrush steppe; and cattle grazing at low (low), moderate (moderate), and high (high) stocking on burned sagebrush steppe. Vegetation dynamics were evaluated by quantifying herbaceous (canopy and basal cover, density, production, reproductive shoot weight) and shrub (canopy cover, density) response variables. Aside from basal cover, herbaceous canopy cover, production, and reproduction were not different among low, moderate, and nonuse treatments. Perennial bunchgrass basal cover was about 25% lower in the low and moderate treatments than the nonuse. Production, reproductive stem weight, and perennial grass basal cover were greater in the low, moderate, and nonuse treatments than the control. The high treatment had lower perennial bunchgrass cover (canopy and basal) and production than other grazed and nonuse treatments. Bunchgrass density remained unchanged in the high treatment, not differing from other treatments, and reproductive effort was comparable to the other treatments, indicating these areas are potentially recoverable by reducing stocking. Cover and production of Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) did not differ among the grazed and nonuse treatments, though all were greater than the control. Cover and density of A.t. spp. wyomingensis did not differ among the burned grazed and nonuse treatments and were less than the control. We concluded that light to moderate stocking rates are compatible to sustainable grazing of burned sagebrush steppe rangelands.