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Hydrologic Impacts of Mechanical Seeding Treatments on Sagebrush Rangelands
- Pierson, Frederick B., Blackburn, Wilbert H., Van Vactor, Steven S.
- Rangeland ecology & management 2007 v.60 no.6 pp. 666
- shrublands, steppes, Bromus tectorum, invasive species, introduced plants, rangelands, range management, hydrology, land restoration, annuals, grasslands, seedbed preparation, plant competition, soil erosion, vegetation, prescribed burning, shrubs, tillage, rainfall simulation, infiltration (hydrology), sediment yield, plant litter, plant establishment, dry matter accumulation, Great Basin States
- In and around the Great Basin, United States, restoration of shrub steppe vegetation is needed where rangelands are transitioning to annual grasslands. Mechanical seedbed preparation can aid native species recovery by reducing annual grass competition. This study was designed to investigate the nature and persistence of hydrologic and erosion impacts caused by different mechanical rangeland seeding treatments and to identify interactions between such impacts and related soil and vegetation properties. A cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.)––dominated site was burned and seeded with native grasses and shrubs in the fall of the year. An Amazon-drill and a disk-chain seeder were used to provide varying levels of surface soil disturbance. An undisturbed broadcast seeding was used as a control. Simulated rainfall was applied to 6 large (32.5-m²) plots per treatment over 3 growing seasons at a rate of 63.5 mm ·· h⁻⁻¹. Rainfall was applied for 60 minutes under dry antecedent moisture conditions and for 30 minutes, 24 hours later under wet antecedent moisture conditions. The disk-chain created the largest reduction in infiltration and increase in sediment yield, which lasted for 3 growing seasons posttreatment. The Amazon-drill had a lesser impact, which was insignificant after the second growing season posttreatment. Surface soil properties showed little correlation with treatment-induced hydrologic and erosion impacts. Hydrologic recovery was strongly correlated with litter dynamics. The seeding treatments were unsuccessful at establishing seeded plant species, and the site once again became dominated by cheatgrass. A continuous upward trend in biomass production and surface litter cover was observed for all treatments between the beginning and end of the study because of cheatgrass invasion. Although the initial goal of using mechanical seeding treatments to enhance recovery of native grass species failed, cheatgrass production provided sufficient biomass to rapidly replenish surface litter cover necessary for rapid hydrologic stability of the site.