Wyoming Big Sagebrush Density: Effects of Seeding Rates and Grass Competition


 Corresponding author: Tel.: 505-387-2319; Fax: 505-387-9012; E-mail: maiwill@nmsu.edu


The mining industry commonly seeds shrubs and grasses concurrently on coal-mined lands of northeastern Wyoming, but ecological interactions between seeded shrubs and grasses are not well documented. Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis (Beetle and Young) (Wyoming big sagebrush) is the dominant pre-mining shrub on many Wyoming mine sites. Despite past failures to establish Wyoming big sagebrush, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Division's rules and regulations require establishment of 1 shrub per m2 on 20% of post-mined land in Wyoming. A study was established at the Belle Ayr Coal Mine south of Gillette, Wyoming to evaluate the effects of sagebrush seeding rates and grass competition on Wyoming big sagebrush seedling density. Three sagebrush seeding rates (1, 2, and 4 kg pure live seed [pls]/ha; 350, 700, and 1,400 pls/m2, respectively) and seven cool-season perennial grass mixture seeding rates (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 14 kg pls/ha; 0, 187, 374, 561, 750, 935, and 1,309 pls/m2, respectively) were applied during winter 1998–1999. Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love (western wheatgrass), Elymus lanceolatus (Scribner & J.G. Smith) Gould (thickspike wheatgrass), and Elymus trachycaulus (Link) Gould ex Shinners (slender wheatgrass) comprised the grass seed mix (equal seed numbers of each species). Sagebrush seedling density differed among sagebrush seeding rates but not among grass seeding rates. On all sampling dates in 1999 and 2000, sagebrush seedling density differed among sagebrush rates and was greatest at the 4 kg pls/ha sagebrush seeding rate. All sagebrush seeding rates provided densities of at least 1 shrub per m2 after two growing seasons. Grass density and production in 2000 suggest that adequate grass production (geqslant R: gt-or-equal, slanted75 g/m2) was achieved by seeding at 6 to 8 kg pls/ha. Within these grass seeding rates, four or more sagebrush seedlings per m2 were attained when sagebrush was seeded at 2 to 4 kg pls/ha. Use of these seeding rate combinations in mine reclamation can achieve Wyoming big sagebrush standards and reduce reseeding costs.