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Effects of non-surface-disturbing treatments for native grass revegetation on cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) metrics and soil ion availabilities

Summerhays, J. R. 2011. M.S. thesis. Utah State University


Several restoration methods intended to increase the success of aerially-seeded perennial grasses were assessed to determine their effects on cheatgrass metrics and soil nutrient bioavailabilities. These methods were: 1) imazapic herbicide application (140 g ai ha-1, 210 g ai ha-1, and no application [control]), 2) vegetation manipulation treatments (50% sagebrush overstory thinning, 100% sagebrush overstory thinning, sagebrush overstory and/or vegetative thatch burning, and no manipulation [control]), and 3) alternative seeding treatments (aerial seeding with raking, aerial seeding with activated carbon [AC] addition, aerial seeding with sucrose addition, and regular aerial seeding [control]). Treatments were arranged in 3-way factorial designs, which allowed main effects and interactions between treatments to be assessed. Responses were followed for two growing seasons following treatment. Main effects of treatments and their interactions on cheatgrass metrics are described in Chapter 2. Herbicide reduced cheatgrass weights and tiller and spikelet numbers in 2009, but these variables were greater than in no-herbicide plots in 2010. Burning decreased cheatgrass densities but increased weights and tiller and spikelet numbers in both years. One hundred percent sagebrush thinning resulted in greater cheatgrass weights and tiller and spikelet numbers in both years and greater densities in 2010. Sucrose addition decreased cheatgrass weights and tiller and spikelet numbers in 2009, but increased these variables in 2010. An interaction between AC and herbicide treatment was observed, with AC potentially sequestering and lessening the negative effect of herbicide on cheatgrass. Aerial seeding with raking and 50% sagebrush thinning treatments were not found to significantly affect cheatgrass either year. The effects of treatments (herbicide, 50% sagebrush thinning, aerial seeding on snow, and aerial seeding with raking treatments omitted) on soil nutrient availabilities are described in Chapter 3. We used ion exchange resin (IER) membrane probes to measure extractable quantities of 15 ions over three time periods following treatment applications. Burning resulted in short-term increases in many soil nutrient availabilities, including nitrate (NO3-), phosphate (H2PO4-), and sulfate (SO42-). Sucrose addition reduced availabilities of N3- and H2PO4- during the first winter and growing season. No changes were detected with AC addition or 100% sagebrush thinning during any sampling time.