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.
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We thank those who provided helpful discussions or assistance on this project including Jeff Mackey, Keely Lopez, Schyler Reis, Ariel Muldoon, Bill Pyle, Steve Herman, and Boone Kauffman. We also thank Robert Beschta and David Dobkin for reviewing an early draft, and two anonymous reviewers. Gail Collins kindly provided refuge data and background information for this study. Partial funding was provided to WJR by the Greater Hart-Sheldon Conservation Fund and Wilburforce Foundation, and to TMW by the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, and the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Electronic Supplementary Material
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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 32329 kb). Photo pairs (n = 64) showing conditions before and 23 years after removal of cattle at the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
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Batchelor, J.L., Ripple, W.J., Wilson, T.M. et al. Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin. Environmental Management 55, 930–942 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2
- Repeat photography
- Passive restoration
- Hart Mountain