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Nevada's Changing Wildlife Habitat

An Ecological History

George Gruell, Sherman Swanson

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents / List of Illustrations

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xi

The hiker who spends a day enjoying Nevada’s high mountains is not likely to see the mountain lion that is watching him. The motorist traveling a lonely highway through one of Nevada’s sprawling valleys glimpses movement amidst the high-desert vegetation...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Preparation of this book turned out to be an engrossing and demanding endeavor. Its publication would not have been possible without the steadfast support of forest ecologist Stephen F. Arno, U.S. Forest Service (retired). Steve provided seemingly endless...

I. Climate Changes and Consequences

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pp. 1-16

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1. The Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs: Prehuman Context

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pp. 3-7

For most of the past two million years the prehistoric landscapes of the Great Basin were in the grip of the Pleistocene “Ice Age.”1 Through these millennia, vegetation responded to glacial and interglacial cycles of frigid and warm periods, and a variety...

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2. The First People: Hunters and Gatherers

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pp. 8-16

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Great Basin was among the first areas of North America to be inhabited by humans.1 Their artifacts indicate a hunting and gathering way of life involving seasonal migration between valleys and mountains to take advantage...

II. Presettlement

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pp. 17

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3. Fire: A Natural Disturbance and Human Tool

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pp. 19-25

Before Euro-Americans settled the interior West, fires ignited by native peoples and lightning played a major role in shaping the dominant vegetation.1 The frequency of these fires depended on available fuel (dead and living vegetation), topography, sources of...

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4. Vegetation: A Sea of Sagebrush or Landscape of Great Variety

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pp. 26-34

What was Nevada’s cold desert vegetation like at the time Europeans entered the Great Basin? The answer is steeped in controversy. George Stewart’s analysis of ecological data and historical records in northwestern Utah showed a predominance of perennial...

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5. Wildlife: Abundance and Scarcity

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pp. 35-45

What kinds of wildlife did early landscape vegetation support? A reasonably good impression comes from examining historical accounts of early travelers and interpreting them with contemporary knowledge about species’ habitat requirements. We would expect...

III. Presettlement

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pp. 47-74

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6. Climate: Averages and Extremes

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pp. 49-53

Along with Euro-American settlement came an unprecedented increase in Nevada’s woody vegetation. The causes are widely debated. Some plant ecologists believe that the temperature increase of 0.6˚F–1.1˚F since 1900 has increased the growth of perennial...

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7. Woodcutting: Boomtowns before Fossil Fuels

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pp. 54-56

The arrival of Euro-American settlers, especially miners, brought a quick and dramatic change to Nevada’s woodlands. Processing ore required heat. Miners and the local economy that supported them needed wood for infrastructure, cooking, and fuel...

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8. Livestock Grazing: Herbivory and Range Depletion

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pp. 57-66

Word of rich silver ore east of the Sierra Nevada spread through California like wildfire in 1860. Crowds of men packed their belongings and hiked over the high mountain passes in search of riches. When ore was discovered at Aurora, prospectors began...

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9. Fire: A Changing Force on the Landscape

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pp. 67-74

Settlement brought about profound changes in the way fires burned on the Nevada landscape. By the end of the 1800s towns and mining camps had sprung up throughout the region. Towns such as Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells provided...

IV. Changes on the Landscape

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pp. 75

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10. Vegetation Resilience and Succession: Meet Abuse and Decadence

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pp. 77-101

The first European settlers began changing North American landscapes as soon as they arrived. The newcomers cut trees, and their Old World–style farms displaced oak-hickory forests and Indian cornfields east of the Mississippi River. In Missouri...

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11. Wildlife: Habitat Relationships

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pp. 102-120

The discovery of gold in California brought large numbers of Euro-Americans through Nevada on their way to the gold fields. The discovery of silver and gold on the Comstock a decade later began a century and a half of extensive changes to Nevada’s cold...

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12. Management Choices: We Cannot Do Nothing

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pp. 121-130

The vegetation and wildlife of the Great Basin have changed profoundly since prehistoric times. A major expansion of woody plants accelerated following settlement, largely because of livestock grazing and suppression of wildfires. By the mid-twentieth century...

Appendix 1: Chronology of Changes in Vegetation, Fire, and Wildlife

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pp. 131-132

Appendix 2: Nevada’s Wildland Plants

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pp. 133-135


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pp. 137-154


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pp. 155-168


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pp. 169-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780874178784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874178715

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 30 photos, 1 map, 1 table
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Nevada -- Environmental conditions.
  • Ecological disturbances -- Nevada -- History.
  • Landscape changes -- Nevada -- History.
  • Human ecology -- Nevada -- History.
  • Nature -- Effect of human beings on -- Nevada -- History.
  • Natural history -- Nevada.
  • Desert ecology -- Nevada -- History.
  • Habitat (Ecology) -- Nevada -- History.
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