The University of Arizona

Dynamics of vegetation along and adjacent to an ephemeral channel.

M.A. Smith, J.L. Dodd, Q.D. Skinner, J.D. Rodgers

Abstract


Ephemeral channels may be greater contributors to nonpoint sediment loads than perennial channels because of their abundance and lower vegetative cover. This study examines above- and belowground standing crop responses of selected vegetation classes and density of shrubs to grazing use and yearly weather variation along an ephemeral stream in northcentral Wyoming. Aboveground biomass standing crop was determined yearly in channel, floodplain, and upland habitats in ungrazed and grazed pastures during the 4-year study. Belowground biomass and shrub densities were determined yearly in the channel habitat only. Perennial grass standing crop in channels did not respond to grazing but decreased up to 73% with decreases in frequency and amount of precipitation. In floodplains, perennial grasses were not responsive to grazing; annual grasses were twice as abundant in grazed pastures. Vegetation standing crop in uplands was not influenced by grazing. Over the study period in all pastures, standing crop of blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag. ex Griffiths) declined 4 fold while cool-season grasses increased 5 fold. Shrub density did not increase as much in grazed as in ungrazed pastures. Root biomass of the channel decreased 23% in years with less precipitation but was greater by 24% on concave than convex bank types. Location on channels influenced root biomass but grazing did not. Lack of general negative grazing influences on vegetation suggest short periods (10 days) of grazing as used in this study represent a sustainable management alternative for grazing in the cold desert.

Keywords


channels;cold deserts;floodplains;annuals;deserts;streams;highlands;riparian buffers;perennials;pastures;woody plants;precipitation;sustainability;Wyoming;plant density;grazing;grasses

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