Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin
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- Batchelor, J.L., Ripple, W.J., Wilson, T.M. et al. Environmental Management (2015) 55: 930. doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2
We assessed the effects of the elimination of livestock in riparian systems at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon, 23 years after the removal of cattle grazing, using 64 photos taken before grazing was removed compared with later retake photos. Two methods were used for this assessment: (1) a qualitative visual method comparing seven cover types and processes and (2) a new quantitative method of inserting digital line transects into photos. Results indicated that channel widths and eroding banks decreased in 64 and 73 % of sites, respectively. We found a 90 % decrease in the amount of bare soil (P < 0.001) and a 63 % decrease in exposed channel (P < 0.001) as well as a significant increase in the cover of grasses/sedges/forbs (15 % increase, P = 0.037), rushes (389 % increase, P = 0.014), and willow (388 % increase, P < 0.001). We also assessed the accuracy of the new method of inserting digital line transects into photo pairs. An overall accuracy of 91 % (kappa 83 %) suggests that digital line transects can be a useful tool for quantifying vegetation cover from photos. Our results indicate that the removal of cattle can result in dramatic changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without replanting or other active restoration efforts.