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Downy Brome Control and Impacts on Perennial Grass Abundance: A Systematic Review Spanning 64 Years☆

Monaco, Thomas A., Mangold, Jane M., Mealor, Brian A., Mealor, Rachel D., Brown, Cynthia S.
Rangeland ecology & management 2017 v.70 no.3 pp. 396-404
Bromus tectorum, annuals, biomass, burning, control methods, defoliation, disturbed soils, grasses, grazing, herbicides, invasive species, land restoration, perennials, plant communities, rangelands, soil amendments, systematic review, woody plants, Intermountain West region, United States
Given the high cost of restoration and the underlying assumption that reducing annual grass abundance is a necessary precursor to rangeland restoration in the Intermountain West, United States, we sought to identify limitations and strengths of annual grass control methods and refine future management strategies. We systematically reviewed all published journal articles spanning a 64-yr period (1948–2012; n = 119) reporting data on research efforts to either directly or indirectly reduce the abundance of the most common invasive annual grass, downy brome (Bromus tectorum L.). The seven most common control methods studied were herbicide, burning, revegetation, woody removal, defoliation or grazing, soil disturbance, and soil amendment. In addition, the majority of control methods were 1) applied at scales of 10–100 m², 2) sampled within small plots (i.e., 0.1–1.0 m²), 3) implemented only once, and 4)monitored at time scales that rarely exceeded 5 yr. We also performed summary analyses to assess how these control methods affect downy brome and perennial grass abundance (i.e., cover, density, biomass). We found conflicting evidence regarding the assumption that reducing downy brome abundance is necessary to enhance the growth and establishment of perennial grasses. All methods, with the exception of woody plant removal, significantly reduced downy brome in the short term, but downy brome abundance generally increased over time and only herbicide and revegetation remained reduced in the long term. Only burning, herbicide, and soil disturbance led to long-term increases in perennial grass abundance. We suggest that future research should prioritize a broader array of ecological processes to improve control efficacy and promote the reestablishment of desirable rangeland plant communities.