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Characteristics of Intact Wyoming Big Sagebrush Associations in Southeastern Oregon

Bates, Jonathan D., Davies, Kirk W.
Rangeland ecology & management 2019 v.72 no.1 pp. 36-46
Achnatherum thurberianum, Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis, Centrocercus urophasianus, Festuca idahoensis, Hesperostipa comata, Piper, Pseudoroegneria spicata, breeding sites, canopy, forbs, habitats, perennials, plant communities, species richness, vegetation, Intermountain West region, Oregon
The Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis [Beetle & A. Young] S.L. Welsh) alliance is the most extensive of the big sagebrush complex in the Intermountain West. There is a lack of information describing vegetation characteristics, diversity, and heterogeneity of the Wyoming big sagebrush alliance. We annually sampled 48 Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities over 10 yr to delineate major vegetation associations and describe their major vegetation characteristics including canopy cover, density, species richness, and yield. Six associations were identified on the basis of dominant or codominant perennial bunchgrass species, using MRPP analysis, and they included ARTRW8 (Wyoming big sagebrush)/PSSP6 (Pseudoroegneria spicata [Pursh] A. Löve, bluebunch wheatgrass), ARTRW8/ACTH7 (Achnatherum thurberianum [Piper] Barkworth, Thurber’s needlegrass), ARTRW8/FEID (Festuca idahoensis Elmer, Idaho fescue), ARTRW8/HECO26 (Hesperostipa comata [Trin. & Rupr.] Barkworth, needle-and-thread), ARTRW8/PSSP6-ACTH7, and ARTRW8/PSSP6-FEID-ACTH7. On average, PSSP6 and FEID associations had the highest total herbaceous cover and annual yields and the HECO26 and ACTH7 associations had the lowest. Perennial forb cover averaged over 5% in PSSP6 and FEID associations and ranged from 0.3% to 3.5% in the other associations. Sagebrush cover was greatest in ACTH7 and PSSP6-ACTH7 and lowest in FEID and HECO26 associations. Habitat suitability criteria for sage-grouse indicated that Wyoming big sagebrush associations at the stand/site level will generally not meet breeding habitat requirements and only attain suitable habitat requirements for other life stages about 50% of the time.