Fire and Forage on the Range
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Nevada Press
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List of Illustrations
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Cheatgrass and the twentieth-century history of Great Basin rangelands are synonymous. Cheatgrass was accidentally introduced early in the twentieth century and became a wandering waif along unpaved roads snaking through an ocean of silver gray sagebrush. A quarter century of excessive, improperly timed, and continuous grazing of domestic livestock in the late ...
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The authors greatly appreciate many hours of assistance from Daniel Harmon and the contributions of exceptionally knowledgeable reviewers Jim Jeffress, Ken Gray, Dr. Robert Blank, Dr. Ken Sanders, and John McLain. Together they have lived much of the story we tell here. The detailed annotation of the manuscript by Dr. Lynn F. James, based on his decades of experience as a ...
Chapter 1. The Many Faces of Cheatgrass
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Newspapers and television news programs have fostered a widespread association between cheatgrass and wildfires in the Great Basin. Cheatgrass has also come to personify the concept of alien invasion. Only a very small percentage of the population living in the large metropolitan centers of the Great Basin can identify cheatgrass. Residents of smaller towns, however, are far more ...
Chapter 2. Developing a Perspective of the Environment
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Cheatgrass is a highly variable species with the inherent capacity to adapt to a vast range of soils and plant communities and the potential for genotypic as well as phenotypic adaptation. This annual grass occasionally matures at barely an inch in height and sometimes reaches more than 2 feet. Scientists call such flexibility “phenotypic variability.” Cheatgrass can germinate in the ...
Chapter 3. Preadaptation of Cheatgrass for the Great Basin
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Cheatgrass has been a successful invader in the Great Basin largely because of a series of preexisting conditions. These include: (1) evolution of sagebrush ecosystems in North America without highly competitive annuals, (2) evolution of cheatgrass in a similar potential environment on a different continent where agriculture had existed for millennia, (3) introduction of ...
Chapter 4. Scientific Perceptions of Cheatgrass
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Cheatgrass had the misfortune to collide head-on with the birth of a new field of applied science that was adopted by the infant conservation movement and became the banner under which scientific range management was to march for a century. Early in the twentieth century, Frederic E. Clements at the University of Nebraska began to inspire students with a zeal for applying ...
Chapter 5. Seral Continuum: The First Step
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Does the plant community concept of ecology as taught by John Weaver and Frederic Clements apply to introduced weeds such as cheatgrass? The answer is a highly qualified “yes and no.” Succession does occur among plant communities dominated by exotic annual species on temperate desert rangelands. In fact, we will show in this chapter that a host of exotic species ...
Chapter 6. Seral Continuum: Intermediate Step
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The exact nature of the step from Russian thistle to the next level in the succession of invasive exotic plants is not known. John Weaver and Frederic Clements stressed that the stages in succession are largely determined by two factors: (1) how each previous stage or plant assemblage modifies the ecosystem, and (2) by the stand renewal process—the means by which the ...
Chapter 7. Seral Truncation
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Cheatgrass truncates secondary succession on temperate desert rangelands before the habitat reaches a natural equilibrium (in the sense of F. E. Clements). That does not mean that cheatgrass dominance is inherently a stable environment that will never change. In fact, cheatgrass communities are susceptible to invasion by other exotic invasive species. R. L. Piemeisel ...
Chapter 8. The Competitive Nature of Cheatgrass
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A “comprehensive” review of cheatgrass published in 1964 describes this annual grass as not highly competitive.1 In terms of adult herbaceous and woody plants this is true. Most perennial grasses, native or introduced, successfully biologically suppress cheatgrass if they are established, mature plants (fig. 8.1). The important phenological stage for competition is the seedling stage. With ...
Chapter 9. Genetic Variation and Breeding System
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Baker certainly was not the first to see the value of weeds for genetic studies. In his 1974 review he listed ten more or less comprehensive reviews on the subject. The British botanist E. J. Salisbury was among the first to suggest that some plants are predisposed to be weeds of agriculture, using as an example the number of European agricultural weeds found in the tundras that followed retreating...
Chapter 10. Control of Cheatgrass and Seeding Prior to Herbicides
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In chapter 3 we mentioned that the editor of a Carson City newspaper wrote an editorial in 1886 asking the state to take action to restore overgrazed rangelands. If the problem was apparent in 1886, why did it take until the mid-twentieth century for successful restoration seedings in the Great Basin? Four major problems hindered the development of seeding technology: ...
Chapter 11. Control and Seeding with Herbicides
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Weed control has been a concern of farmers since agriculture began, but herbicides came into wide use only in the first half of the twentieth century. Salt (NaCl) was widely used for weed suppression in the nineteenth century. The first half of the twentieth century produced new herbicides and new methods of administering them.1 Scientists tested a variety of
Chapter 12. Revegetation Plant Material
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To this point we have referred to crested wheatgrass in general terms as if it were a homogeneous species. In fact, the taxonomy of crested wheatgrass is quite complex. Dr. Douglas Dewey of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) spent much of his career developing a genomic system of classification for the perennial species of the grass tribe Triticeae (for classification purposes, ...
Chapter 13. Cheatgrass and Nitrogen
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Nitrogen fertilizer in various forms came into common usage in crop production in the United States after World War II. Yield increases in cereal grain production obtained through nitrogen enrichment were often spectacular. Range scientists throughout western North America began to try various methods of fertilization with an array of forms of nitrogen to ...
Chapter 14. Grazing Management
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Cheatgrass was the most abundant and most widely distributed forage species on the Great Basin rangelands during the twentieth century and has continued to expand its distribution in the twenty-first. The spectacular and sudden invasion of portions of the salt desert mentioned earlier is an example. For most of this period, federal land managers who calculated the ...
Chapter 15. Cheatgrass and Wildlife
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Father and son head out for a hunting trip to central Nevada in early October. As they travel the road to their destination, the father recalls memories of making this very trip with his father 25 years earlier. The father describes the beauty of the land, the color of the trees, and the abundance of deer and sage grouse. The wide-eyed son asks his father endless questions, just as his father had asked the boy’s grandfather. At first light the next morning ..
Chapter 16. Wildfire on the Range
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The central issue in any discussion of the ecological ramifications of cheatgrass invasion and dominance on Great Basin rangelands is the role cheatgrass plays in the stand renewal process—the process by which a given plant community perpetuates itself on a specific site. Much of what appears in the literature concerning wildfires fueled by cheatgrass is observational and not ...
Chapter 17. Conclusions
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Cheatgrass is still a paradox. This exotic alien is in firm control of plant succession in Great Basin plant communities. Cheatgrass truncates the natural progression toward native perennial grass and shrub dominance in a seemingly endless act of dominance. At the same time, cheatgrass appears to be only a single step in a progression of invasive and exotic species. As a species, ...
Appendix: Common and Scientific Names of Plants Mentioned in the Text
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Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 43 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2009