For the past several years, USGS has taken a multi-faceted approach to investigating the condition and trends in sagebrush steppe ecosystems. This recent effort builds upon decades of work in semi-arid ecosystems providing a specific, applied focus on the cumulative impacts of expanding human activities across these landscapes. Here, we discuss several on-going projects contributing to these efforts: (1) mapping and monitoring the distribution and condition of shrub steppe communities with local detail at a regional scale, (2) assessing the relationships between specific, land-use features (for example, roads, transmission lines, industrial pads) and invasive plants, including their potential (environmentally defined) distribution across the region, and (3) monitoring the effects of habitat treatments on the ecosystem, including wildlife use and invasive plant abundance. This research is focused on the northern sagebrush steppe, primarily in Wyoming, but also extending into Montana, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. The study area includes a range of sagebrush types (including, Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata, Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana, Artemisia nova) and other semi-arid shrubland types (for example, Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Atriplex confertifolia, Atriplex gardneri), impacted by extensive interface between steppe ecosystems and industrial energy activities resulting in a revealing multiple-variable analysis. We use a combination of remote sensing (AWiFS (1 Any reference to platforms, data sources, equipment, software, patented or trade-marked methods is for information purposes only. It does not represent endorsement of the U.S.D.I., U.S.G.S. or the authors), Landsat and Quickbird platforms), Geographic Information System (GIS) design and data management, and field-based, replicated sampling to generate multiple scales of data representing the distribution of shrub communities for the habitat inventory. Invasive plant sampling focused on the interaction between human infrastructure and weedy plant distributions in southwestern Wyoming, while also capturing spatial variability associated with growing conditions and management across the region. In a separate but linked study, we also sampled native and invasive composition of recent and historic habitat treatments. Here, we summarize findings of this ongoing work, highlighting patterns and relationships between vegetation (native and invasive), land cover, landform, and land-use patterns in the sagebrush steppe.
Manier, Daniel J.; Aldridge, Cameron; Anderson, Patrick; Chong, Geneva; Homer, Collin; O'Donnell, Michael; and Schell, Spencer
"Land Use and Habitat Conditions Across the Southwestern Wyoming Sagebrush Steppe: Development Impacts, Management Effectiveness and the Distribution of Invasive Plants,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues: Vol. 17
, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol17/iss1/4