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Yield Responses of Ruderal Plants to Sucrose in Invasive-Dominated Sagebrush Steppe of the Northern Great Basin

Authors

  • Jessi L. Brunson,

    1. Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S.A.
    2. Present address: Energy Pilot Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 170 South 500 East, Vernal, UT 84078, U.S.A.
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  • David A. Pyke,

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S.A.
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  • Steven S. Perakis

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S.A.
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D. A. Pyke, email david_a_pyke@usgs.gov

Abstract

Restoration of sagebrush-steppe plant communities dominated by the invasive ruderals Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) and Taeniatherum caput-medusae (medusahead) can be facilitated by adding carbon (C) to the soil, stimulating microbes to immobilize nitrogen (N) and limit inorganic N availability. Our objectives were to determine responses in (1) cheatgrass and medusahead biomass and seed production; (2) soil microbial biomass C and N; and (3) inorganic soil N to a range of C doses and to calculate the lowest dose that yielded a significant response. In November 2005, we applid 12 C doses ranging from 0 to 2,400 kg C/ha as sucrose to plots sown with cheatgrass and medusahead at two sites in the northern Great Basin. Other ruderal plants established in our plots, and this entire ruderal community was negatively affected by C addition. End-of-year biomass of the ruderal community decreased approximately by approximately 6% at each site for an increase in C dose of 100 kg C/ha. For the same increase in C, microbial biomass C increased by 2–4 mg/kg in November 2005 and March 2006, but not in July 2006. There was little, if any, microbial soil N uptake, as microbial biomass N increased by 0.3 mg/kg at only one site at the earliest date, in November 2005. Soil nitrate (NO3) measured via resin capsules placed in situ for the study duration decreased at both sites with increasing C. Although we found no threshold dose of C, for a significant reduction in ruderal biomass, we calculated lowest significant doses of 240–640 kg C/ha.

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