A collection of open access papers that describe short-term SageSTEP results are in a special issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology and Management. The special issue, published this month, includes 11 papers that together address many aspects of the initial study objectives.
The collection of papers begins with a contribution from Jeanne Chambers, which evaluates how ecological site type influences both resistance to cheatgrass invasion and resilience after treatment. Working at six lower elevation Wyoming big sagebrush sites, Dave Pyke then examines how fire, mowing, tebuthirion, and imazapic treatments influence plant communities and functional groups. Working at the woodland sites, Rick Miller examines the influence of prescribed fire and cutting treatments on vegetation functional groups, bare ground, litter, and biological crusts, and factors in the influence of pre-treatment vegetation composition and structure. Bruce Roundy extends the results of Miller and Chambers to discover how different levels of tree infilling influence vegetation response. He also reports on how much additional water is made available by removal of woody vegetation at woodland expansion sites. Ben Rau extends the soil water work of Roundy to lower elevation sage-cheat sites, reports on how treatments influence nitrogen availability, and describes the influence of soil texture on vegetation response. Hydrological work by Fred Pierson and his team explores site-level variation in how alternative fuel reduction treatments influence runoff and erosion in the short-term.
For the fauna, Jim McIver reports on butterfly response to treatment, and links response to the herbaceous vegetation. Steve Knick and his team examine avian response at woodland sites in the context of ecological scale, with a focus on the extent to which treatments influence the sagebrush-obligate bird community. April Hulet describes how remote sensing can be used to evaluate longevity of fuel treatments, and to determine the spatial distribution of horizontal fuel structure across large landscapes. Ryan Gordon evaluates public acceptance of restoration treatments, and assesses the extent to which the public trusts management agencies to implement them. The special issue concludes with a synopsis of short-term effects, which focuses on findings from the 11 preceding papers, but also includes information from other published SageSTEP work.
It is important to note that SageSTEP was designed as a long-term study. This special issue reports only short-term results (2-3 years post-treatment), and while these results do provide an early indication of treatment effects, we predict that it will take at least 10 years to understand how treatments have influenced most of the measured variables. Therefore, we plan to continue measuring plots until at least 2018, at which time 10 years will have elapsed since treatment at all of our sites.
To see the special issue of Rangeland Ecology and Management, click here.