Comparison of productivity of native and alien grass communities of South-Central Washington Page: 4 of 10
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The study area is located in south-central Washington in the Northwestern
corner of the contiguous United States on the United States Energy Research
and Development Administrations Hanford Works Reservation in south-central
Washington. The vegetation reflects the general climatic aridity of the
region by not supporting trees, instead grasses and desert shrubs dominate the
vegetation. Although a variety of plant communities exist on the Hanford
Reservation attention is given here to the native sagebrush-bluebunch
wheatgrass community which has the best developed grass layer and is regarded
as the biologically most productive of the various plant communities and also
the most valuable in terns of supporting livestock. This community type
occurs on deep soil and has agricultural potential and dryland wheat can be
successfully raised. For this reason once the land is plowed it is seldom allowed to
revert back to a natural condition. However, such a condition exists on
the Hanford Reservation where. formerly productive:wheatfields have been abandoned
and not used for a period of 30 years. Initial invasion of the
abandoned fields was by cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum an alien plant intro-
duced to North America from Europe more than a century ago. During the past
four years studies have been conducted to compare species composition and
the aboveground productivity of these contrasting kinds of plant communities.
A list of plant species associated with the cheatgrass community and
the amount of live biomass for each at various harvest periods during the
spring growing season is shown in Figure 1. A list of plant species and the
amount of live biomass for the herbaceous species in the sagebrush-bluebunch
wheatgrass community is shown in Figure 2.
Clearly many more plant species are associated with the sagebrush-
bluebunch wheatgrass community than with the cheatgrass community. It is
also clear that the sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass community supports only
trace amounts of the plants found in the cheatgrass community and that
only one native perennial grass species (Poa secunda) is associated with the
cheatgrass community and then only in trace amounts.
The data shown in Figure 3 show that cheatgrass communities are much
more productive than sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass communities at least
over the four years of available data. . The data also show that cheatgrass
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Rickard, W.H. Comparison of productivity of native and alien grass communities of South-Central Washington, article, January 1, 1975; Richland, Washington. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1060759/m1/4/: accessed March 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.