Use of herbicides to thin dense stands of Artemisia spp. (sagebrush) can free up resources for herbaceous plants and increase forage production, but may also facilitate weed invasion. We revisited a sagebrush thinning experiment in a north central Wyoming big sagebrush–grassland 11 years after application of tebuthiuron (N-[5-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-1,3,4-thiadiazol-2-yl]-N-N′-dimethylurea) to determine the long-term responses of shrubs, available soil resources, perennial grasses, and Bromus tectorum L. (downy brome). Tebuthiuron reduced shrub cover by more than half, from 31% in untreated plots to 15% in treated plots (P = 0.002), and increased downy brome cover approximately 4-fold, from 0.9% in untreated plots to 3.5% in treated plots (P = 0.02). Treatment with tebuthiuron also resulted in marginally significant increases in cover of perennial grasses (from 9% to 12.3%; P = 0.07) and bare ground (from 39.1% to 43.9%; P = 0.08). In comparisons of resource availability among microsites, available NO3 was higher under dead sagebrush than under live sagebrush (P = 0.03). No significant differences in soil water content were detected. The relatively recent expansion of downy brome populations at this site and the high NO3–N levels observed under dead sagebrush suggest that conditions facilitating downy brome invasion may persist for many years following sagebrush thinning. We demonstrate that sagebrush thinning can cause increases in downy brome populations years after initial treatment and suggest that managers should use caution when considering thinning sagebrush if downy brome is present, even if initial populations are small.
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Vol. 66 • No. 4