An understanding of existing ecosystem conditions is necessary for planning efforts that include formulation of landscape conservation goals and implementation strategies. In support of a landscape planning effort for a 946,000-ac mixed-ownership area in eastern Wyoming, we used remote sensing and field sampling to assess existing ecosystem conditions of terrestrial ecological sites. We used SPOT 5, 33-ft (10-m) multi-spectral satellite imagery combined with NRCS ecological sites to create a geographic information system layer of vegetation cover by ecological site. We then integrated the remote sensing information with field data (571 plots) collected from a stratified random design from 2003 through 2005. The integration of the field data with the satellite mapping provided specific information about each terrestrial ecological site including species composition, productivity, structure, and shrub cover. Western wheatgrass was the most dominant species across all of the terrestrial ecological sites followed by big sagebrush, needle and thread, blue grama, annual brome species and to a lesser extent threadleaf sedge, and six weeks fescue. We found species that typically decrease with grazing (for example green needlegrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, Indian ricegrass) to be lacking or entirely absent from plant communities. Introduced species, especially the annual bromes, were prevalent across all ecological sites. Over 55 percent of the terrestrial ecosystems we sampled had greater than five percent relative cover of introduced plant species. Current ecosystem conditions for many wildlife of the area, as identified by our assessment, had generally lower habitat quality than desired and treatments to improve these conditions are planned.
Ganguli, Amy C.; Haufler, Jonathan B.; Mehl, Carolyn A.; and Yeats, Scott D.
"Ecological Assessment of Sagebrush Grasslands in Eastern Wyoming,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 16, Article 33.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol16/iss1/33