Date of Award:

5-2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Eugene W. Schupp

Abstract

The conversion of sagebrush-steppe communities of the Great Basin into cheatgrass-dominated communities is one of the most dramatic ongoing land conversions in North America. Although restoration of these communities is a high priority to landowners and land management agencies, restoration of native vegetation is difficult. Several restoration treatments intended to increase the success of aerially‐seeded perennial grasses in cheatgrass-invaded sagebrush ecosystems were assessed to determine their effects on perennial seedling emergence and soil seed bank density and composition. Assessed restoration treatments were: 1) vegetation manipulation (sagebrush thinning and prescribed burning); 2) imazapic herbicide application; 3) seedbed amendments (aerial seeding with activated carbon addition, aerial seeding with sucrose addition); and 4) seeding frequency. The effects of these treatments were evaluated in two distinct sagebrush shrubland ecosystems in northern Utah. One is characterized as a remnant sagebrush stand with a cheatgrass-dominated understory and the other as a cheatgrass near-monoculture, completely lacking a sagebrush component. In the seed bank study, responses were assessed immediately and 1 year following treatment while in the seedling emergence study, they were assessed 2 and 3 years following treatment. Main effects of vegetation manipulation, herbicide application, and seedbed addition treatments and their interactions on perennial seedling emergence are described in Chapter 2. The effects of seeding frequency on perennial seedling emergence are also described in Chapter 2. Herbicide demonstrated potential for increasing native perennial grass emergence, although this response was delayed and not seen until 3 years post-application. Burning showed potential for increasing the emergence of perennial grasses 2 years post-burn. Results also suggest that potential exists to increase native perennial grass emergence through an increase in seeding frequency. In Chapter 3 I evaluated the effects of vegetation manipulation, herbicide application, and seedbed addition on seed pool dynamics. These results suggest that herbicide and sucrose may be useful tools for reducing exotic species richness in cheatgrass-invaded systems. Herbicide also showed potential for reducing cheatgrass seed bank densities. Additionally, results demonstrated that the reductions in cheatgrass seed bank densities observed immediately after fire are still observed 1 year post-burn.

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