The decline and range reduction of sage grouse populations are primarily due to permanent loss and degradation of sagebrusha??grassland habitat. Several studies have shown that sage grouse productivity may be limited by the availability of certain preferred highly nutritious forb species that have also declined within sagebrush ecosystems of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. The purpose of this study was to determine the suitability of three species of forbs for revegetation projects where improving sage grouse habitat is a goal. Species suitability was determined by evaluating the emergence, survival, and reproduction of Crepis modocensis, C. occidentalis, and Astragalus purshii in response to method of establishment (seeding or transplanting), site preparation treatment (burned or unburned), and microsite (mound or interspace) in an Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis vegetation association in south central Oregon. For seeded plants A. purshii had the lowest emergence (8%) of all three species. Both seeded Crepis species had similar overall emergence (38%). Significantly more Crepis seedlings emerged from shrub mounds in unburned areas (50%) than in any other fire-by-microsite treatment (33 to 36%). Approximately 10% more Crepis seedlings survived in mounds compared with interspaces. Nearly twice as many emerging Crepis seedlings survived in the burned areas as opposed to unburned areas (p < 0.01). This resulted in more plant establishment in burned mounds despite higher emergence in unburned mounds. Astragalus purshii seedlings also survived better in burned areas (p = 0.06) but had no differential response to microsite. Fire enhanced survival of both Crepis and A. purshii transplants (p = 0.08 and p = 0.001). We believe additional research is needed to improve A. purshii emergence before it will become an effective plant for restoring sage grouse habitat. Conversely, we conclude that these Crepis species provide a viable revegetation option for improving sage grouse habitat in south central Oregon.
Additional publication details
Restoring forbs for sage grouse habitat: Fire, microsites, and establishment methods