Date of Award:

8-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

Terry A. Messmer

Abstract

The decline in greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse) populations across western North America has been primarily attributed to loss and fragmentation of their sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitats. This habitat loss is largely the result of increased human activities, with grazing by domestic livestock as the most predominant land use across the sagebrush ecosystem in North America. The goal of my research was to increase our understanding of the effects of livestock on sage-grouse populations. I reviewed the peer-reviewed literature for all published studies that reported potential effects of grazing on grouse species worldwide. I found that there was an overall negative effect of domestic livestock grazing on grouse populations in general.

I compared sage-grouse nest success on two study sites managed under differing prescribed livestock grazing practices to determine their relative effects on sage-grouse nest survival. I found that nest survival was slightly higher in areas managed under high-intensity low-frequency rest-rotation practices. The difference was not statistically significant (P < 0.05). However, these areas received lower precipitation and were grazed at a higher stocking rate (AUM · ha-1) without negatively affecting nest survival compared to areas of that were mostly grazed as single pastures from May-September.

Because livestock grazing in the sagebrush ecosystem has been historically facilitated with sagebrush reduction treatments to increase forage for livestock, I compared the relative effects of these treatments with the more direct effect from livestock grazing. Sagebrush treatments were found to have a greater effect on female sage-grouse survival than livestock grazing. This understanding can be useful for land managers looking to attenuate the effects of management decisions related to livestock grazing systems in the sagebrush ecosystem.

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