, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 293-300

Succession patterns following soil disturbance in a sagebrush steppe community

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Summary

A study was begun in 1976 to measure succession patterns following soil disturbance within a sagebrush community in northwestern Colorado. The principal hypothesis was that type of disturbance affects the direction of succession, resulting in different plant communities over time. Successional dynamics were studied through 1988. Four types of soil disturbance resulted in 3 early seral communities: one dominated by grasses, one by annuals, and one intermediate. The annual-dominated communities were opportunistic on these sites, lasting 3–5 years and not determining the direction in which succession proceeded following their replacement. Twelve years after disturbance, 3 communities (one grass-dominated, one shrub-dominated, and one intermediate) occupied the site, the characteristics of which were functions of type of initial soil disturbance. For the period of time covered by this study (12 years), degree of disturbance was found to affect the direction of succession, resulting in different plant communities over time. There were, however, successional characteristics toward the end of the study that suggest that over a longer time period, succession might progress to a single community regardless of type of disturbance.