Effects of juniper removal by shearing and dozing on seedbed preparation and vegetation establishment in the Lampasas Cut Plain, Texas

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2009-05-15

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Woody encroachment upon grasslands is a global trend that is cause for concern. In the Lampasas Cut Plain of Texas, Ashe juniper is the dominant woody invasive species. Grassland restoration is dependent upon proper seedbed preparation and seedling establishment. Shearing and bulldozing are common methods of juniper removal. Three hypotheses were tested in this experiment. The first was that bulldozing and shearing results in similar seedbed preparations. The second was that electrical conductivity (ECa) models soil moisture storage heterogeneity across a landscape. The third hypothesis tested was that bulldozing and shearing result in similar seedling establishment. Eighteen plots were selected and three treatments were applied: 1) shearing, 2) dozing, and 3) control. After clearing with both juniper removal methods, the levels of soil disturbance and vegetation regrowth were measured. Point measures were used to describe soil surface disturbance, and at each point, presence and size of ground cover and surface depressions were recorded. After germination, when the plants were large enough to identify, vegetation was sampled at 20-24 locations in each plot. At each sample location a quadrat was placed on the transect, and total herbaceous, grass, forb, rock, litter, and bare soil cover were recorded in cover classes. All species were identified, seeded species were enumerated, and in the second vegetation sample, dominant species were assigned a cover class. There was considerable variation between plots for all parameters measured. Bulldozing created a greater number of depressions in the soil than shearing. It also had a higher percent of large depressions. There was no difference in ground cover change between treatments except in the case of the largest litter category. ECa was effective in modeling soil moisture storage patterns and had a lower coefficient of variation than manual soil depth measurements. There was no difference between sheared and dozed plots for any of the vegetation establishment parameters, but control plots had lower establishment in most categories. Overall, there was little difference between the two treatments in seedbed preparation and seedling establishment. The cost of shearing was 80% of the cost of dozing, which made it more desirable in this scenario.

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