The University of Arizona

Soil-water and vegetation dynamics through 20 years after big sagebrush control.

D.L. Sturges


Soil water withdrawal and vegetation characteristics of mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentala ssp. vaseyana Rydb. Beetie) areas sprayed with 2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) were measured for 20 years after treatment. Herbaceous productivity more than doubled in the first 3 years after spraying and was still twice as great as untreated vegetation 10 to 17 years after treatment. Sagebrush removal reduced seasonal water depletion 9% to a 1.8-m soil depth, equal to 2.4 cm of water. The entire difference was realized from soil 0.9-1.8 m deep. Depletion from the surface 0.9 m of soil under grass-dominated vegetation slightly exceeded depletion under sagebrush-dominated vegetation. Mathematical relationships were developed that predict the percent reduction in seasonal water depletion in relation to time since sagebrush control for soil depths of 0.0-1.8 m, 0.0-0.9 m, and 0.9-1.8 m. Mountain big sagebrush was a minor vegetation constituent on treated areas 20 years after spraying. Sagebrush density increased from 2,100 to 4,400 plant/ha between 10 and 20 years after spraying while herbaceous production ranged between 28 and 52 kg/ha. Both density and canopy cover of sagebrush on untreated areas declined significantly over the study because of the actions of a snowmold fungus.


2,4-D;brush control;vegetation management;chemical control;soil water content;biomass production;Wyoming;Artemisia tridentata;botanical composition;rangelands;soil water regimes

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