Establishment of Forb Islands to Enhance Biodiversity on Great Basin Rangelands.
Research interests: The role of cattle grazing systems on the production of stakeholder-valued ecosystem services such as livestock production, range sustainability, sage grouse habitat, and healthy riparian systems. Rangeland restoration and biodiversity conservation.
Study Area: Fort Hall Indian Reservation, ID; Blue Creek Experiment Station, UT; Nephi Experiment Station, UT
- Determine whether use of new snow fence technology can lead to establishment of native forbs in Great Basin rangelands
- Determine effect of snow fences on invasive species (e.g. cheatgrass)
Public land management agencies (BLM, FS) are interested in expanding the biodiversity of rangeland plantings by establishing forb species in rangeland revegetation/restoration projects. Besides enhancing biodiversity, forbs provide forage for wildlife, livestock, sage-grouse and native pollinators. However, the establishment of forbs on rangelands is challenging with conventional revegetation/restoration methods, and the BLM and FS have had only limited success in establishing forb species in large-scale rangeland plantings. We will examine whether snow fences can increase the establishment of native forbs. These forb islands could in turn serve as focal areas for the production and dissemination of forb seeds to colonize adjacent rangeland areas.
A patented Hollow Frame Snow Fence System (HFFS) will be employed at three sites in Utah and Idaho to evaluate the feasibility of using these fences to facilitate establishment of forb islands on Great Basin rangelands. The unique HFFS design traps snow in uniform, dense drifts that slowly melt and extend soil water availability by 30-45 days, resulting in a longer period for favorable forb establishment. Plots will be seeded with a wide diversity of 20 forb species at three sites in the Great Basin. Seedling emergence, growth, phenological development, and seed production will be determined in HFFS and control plots at each site on a regular basis during spring, summer, and fall of 2015 and 2016. In addition soil water content will be examined to determine mechanism. Finally we will also examine the effect of snow fences on the establishment of weeds that could compete with native forbs (e.g. cheatgrass) to determine whether these treatments will be successful.
If successful, establishing forb using snow fences could be a valuable tool for enhancing biodiversity on rangelands. These forb islands could be strategically located to serve as seed sources for colonizing adjacent areas, which could provide critical forage for sage-grouse and native pollinator species as well as large herbivores.
Funding for this project is being provided by the Utah State University Wildland Resources Department, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at USU, the ARS Forest and Range Research Lab at Utah State, and a grant from the Great Basin Native Plant Program.
Doug Johnson (USDA-ARS Forest & Range Research Lab), Tom Monaco (USDA-ARS Forest & Range Research Lab), Tom Jones (USDA-ARS Forest & Range Research Lab), Shaun Bushman (USDA-ARS Forest & Range Research Lab), Scott Jenson (Forest Service), Derek Tilley (NRCS), Matt Madsen (BYU), and Jim Cane (USDA-ARS).