Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Department name when degree awarded
John A. Bissonette
Sagebrush shrubsteppe ecosystems have increasingly garnered attention as an endangered ecosystem. Ninety nine percent of all sagebrush ecosystems are thought to have been impacted by humans, and over 50% of grassland and shrubsteppe species are believed to be in decline. Most of the research on sagebrush ecosystems has been conducted at lower elevations and in large expanses of sagebrush. A considerable amount of sagebrush is found at higher elevations, often in meadows found within a forest matrix. The role of this high-elevation habitat is poorly understood. We conducted bird, small mammal, vegetation, and soil surveys in sagebrush-dominated mountain meadows within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in northeastern Utah. Meadows ranged from 0.6 to 782 hectares in size and included an impressive list of associated plant species. We detected two sagebrush-obligate species and numerous shrubsteppe-associated species. Each species appears to respond to different habitat characteristics, but all species that showed a significant relationship with meadow size were more likely to occur in larger meadows. Many species showed no relationship with size, suggesting that while larger meadows were preferred by some species, small meadows could also play an important role as habitat. While sagebrush-dominated mountain meadows were important for some species, we also failed to detect a number of species of interest. In particular, Sage Thrasher, Sage Sparrow, and pygmy rabbit were not found within the study area. North American Breeding Bird data suggests that Sage Thrashers can be found nearby. It is likely that these birds are only found in large expanses, and none of our meadows were large enough to support them. Sagebrush-dominated mountain meadows appear to be an important supplement to large expanses of sagebrush shrubsteppe habitat, but are not substitutable for all species.
Johnson, Elizabeth, "Bird and Small Mammal Communities of Sagebrush-Dominated Mountain Meadows: An Examination of Meadow Characteristics as Part of a Hierarchical, Multi-Level Study of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest" (2005). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 6614.