Western juniper expansion on adjacent disturbed and near-relict sites

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paul A. Knapp, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: We determined rates of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis spp. occidentalis Hook.) density and cover change during the period 1951 to 1994 at 3 adjacent sites with nearly identical elevation, slope, aspect, soils, plant communities, and climate, but different land-use histories. The 3 sites are located in central Oregon at the confluence of the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers. Two of the sites are typical of central Oregon rangelands in that they have a history of anthropogenic disturbance including active fire suppression and domestic livestock grazing. The third site is a relict mesa that is a protected Research Natural Area and has experienced minimal anthropogenic impacts. We used large scale aerial photography to determine cover and density of western juniper in 1951, 1956, 1961, 1972, 1982, and 1994. We found that western juniper density and cover during the last 4 decades increased at all sites, with changes on the relict site similar to those on one of the disturbed sites. We suggest that even though 2 of the traditionally cited causes of western juniper expansion since the late 1800s (altered fire regimes, domestic livestock grazing) may have contributed to expansion on our disturbed sites, these mechanisms can not explain expansion on the near-relict mesa. Further, we examined climatic changes since 1900 in the region and concluded that the data did not fully support a climate-driven mechanism for the expansion. In seeking to explain western juniper expansion on semiarid rangelands, we suggest that all potential causal mechanisms (e.g., fire history, biological inertia, climate, domestic grazing, atmospheric CO2 enrichment) be considered.

Additional Information

Journal of Range Management 52(5):525-533
Language: English
Date: 1999
afforestation, central Oregon, land-use history, biological inertia

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