The University of Arizona

Redberry juniper canopy cover dynamics on western Texas rangelands.

D.N. Ueckert, R.A. Phillips, J.L. Petersen, X.B. Wu, D.F. Waldron

Abstract


Knowledge of the rate woody plant canopy cover increases is essential for understanding the ecology of rangeland plant communities, determining the economic feasibility of brush management practices, and for scheduling initial and maintenance control practices. We determined rates of change in redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) canopy cover from the mid 1950s through the late 1990s at 5 locations in western Texas on rangeland that had been chained or grubbed for juniper control and on adjacent untreated areas. Juniper cover was estimated from aerial photographs by the line intercept method using a 10-X monocular lens with a vernier. Juniper cover increased at 0.35 +/- 0.06 percentage units year(-1) on untreated sites and at 1.01 +/- 0.07 percentage units year(-1) following chaining or grubbing. Juniper cover returned to pre-treatment levels in an average of 20 years (range 11 to 25) following chaining or grubbing. Herbage production on untreated rangeland was predicted to decline slowly (2.4 to 5.0 kg ha(-1) year(-1)) as juniper cover increased from 6 to 14% and rapidly (> 8 kg ha(-1) year(-1)) as juniper cover increased from 30 to 38%. Herbage production was predicted to decline at a constantly increasing rate following mechanical control of juniper, from < 2 kg ha(-1) year(-1) in year 1 to 23 kg ha(-1) year(-1) in year 29. Potential additional livestock carrying capacity due to juniper control would be under estimated by more than 40%, assuming forage production without treatment remained constant during the entire planning horizon of an economic analysis. To avoid significant reductions in livestock carrying capacity, redberry juniper control should be implemented before its canopy cover exceeds about 20%.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v54i5_ueckert


Keywords


aerial photography;chaining;grubbing;Juniperus pinchotii;carrying capacity;soil types;brush control;rain;biomass production;grazing intensity;Texas;canopy;forage

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