Effects of sheep grazing on a spotted knapweed-infested Idaho fescue community.

Olson, B.E.
Wallander, R.T.
Lacey, J.R.
Rangeland Ecology & Management / Journal of Range Management Archives
Publication Year: 
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea Maculosa Lam.), a Eurasian perennial forb, is replacing many native perennial grasses, such as Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer.), in foothills of the Northern Rocky Mountain region. Our objective was to determine if 3 summers of repeated sheep grazing would reduce spotted knapweed without impacting the dominant, associated native perennial grass. Each summer, small pastures were grazed for 1-7 days in mid-June, mid-July, and early September. Areas repeatedly grazed by sheep had lower densities of seedlings, rosettes, and mature spotted knapweed plants than ungrazed areas. In addition, the proportion of young plants in the population was less in grazed than ungrazed areas. Basal areas of spotted knapweed plants were greater in grazed (8.2 cm2) than ungrazed areas (4.0 cm2). There were fewer spotted knapweed seeds in soil samples from grazed areas (12 seeds m-2) than from ungrazed (49 seeds m-2). Idaho fescue plant density increased 40% in grazed areas from 1991 to 1994, but leaves and flower stems on these plants were 38% and 17% shorter, respectively, than in ungrazed areas. By 1994, frequency of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) was 35% greater in grazed than ungrazed areas. Grazing did not alter the amount of litter; however the amount of bare soil increased from 2.2 to 5.6% in grazed areas, while it decreased from 4 to 1% in ungrazed areas. Three summers of repeated sheep grazing negatively impacted spotted knapweed, but minimally affected the native grass community. A long term commitment to repeated sheep grazing may slow the rate of increase of spotted knapweed in native plant communities.
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Society for Range Management

Rangeland Ecology & Management (formerly the Journal of Range Management) serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, ecology, and use of rangelands and their resources. The journal is peer-reviewed and provides international exchange of scholarly research and information among persons interested in rangelands. The Global Rangelands collection includes REM content up to 5 years from the current year. More recent content is available by subscription from BioOne and the Society for Range Management, and may be available at your local university library.
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