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Vegetation response to western juniper slash treatments

Casey O'Connor, Rick Miller, Jonathan D. Bates
Environmental management 2013 v.52 pp. 553-566
Artemisia tridentata, Bromus tectorum, Cercocarpus ledifolius, Festuca idahoensis, Juniperus occidentalis, Poa secunda, best management practices, burning, fuels (fire ecology), grasses, invasive species, pinyon-juniper, seedlings, slash, trees, understory, vegetation cover, weed control, woodlands, Northwestern United States
The expansion of piñon-juniper woodlands the past 100 years in the western United States has resulted in large scale efforts to kill trees and recover sagebrush steppe rangelands. It is important to evaluate vegetation recovery following woodland control to develop best management practices. In this study, we compared two fuel reduction treatments and a cut-and-leave (CUT) treatment used to control western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis spp. occidentalis Hook.) of the northwestern United States. Treatments were; CUT, cut-and-broadcast burn (BURN), and cut-pile-and-burn the pile (PILE). A randomized complete block design was used with replicates of each treatment located in a curl leaf mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius Nutt. ex Torr. & A. Gray)/mountain big sagebrush (Artemesia tridentate Nutt. spp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle)/Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer) association. In 2010, 4 years after tree control the cover of perennial grasses (PG) [Sandber's bluegrass (Poa secunda J. Pres) and large bunchgrasses] were about 4 and 5 % less, respectively, in the BURN (7.1 ± 0.6%) the the PILE (11.4 ± 2.3 %) and CUT (12.4 ± 1.7 %) treatments (P < 0.0015). In 2010, cover of invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) was greater in the BURN (6.3 ± 1.0 %) and was 50 and 100 % greater than PILE and CUT treatments, respectively. However, the increase in perennial bunchgrass density and cover, despite cheatgrass in the BURN treatment, mean it unlikely that cheatgrass will persist as a major understory component. In the CUT treatment mahogany cover increased 12.5 % and density increased from 172 ± 25 to 404 ± 123 trees/ha. Burning, killed most or all of the adult mahogany, and mahogany recovery consisted of 100 and 67 % seedlings in the PILE and BURN treatments, respectively. After treatment, juniper presence from untreated small trees (