Conservation research in the Leslie Gulch ACEC Population monitoring for Trifolium owyheense and seed bank dynamics in Senecio ertterae
The objective of the current project is to provide Vale District BLM with information needed to make biologically informed management decisions for the Leslie Gulch ACEC and its sensitive botanical
The objective of the current project is to provide Vale District BLM with information needed to make biologically informed management decisions for the Leslie Gulch ACEC and its sensitive botanical resources. Specifically, this two-part project is designed to 1) develop and implement a long-term population monitoring plan for Trifolium owyheense, and 2) perform seed bank research for Senecio ertterae.
Habitat surveys conducted in 2004 resulted in the re-location of 11 known T. owyheense populations and the discovery of 4 new populations. We excavated T. owyheense root systems at several populations, demonstrating that the species is taprooted, and that the number of individual plants in an area cannot be accurately predicted by observation of above-ground leaves and stems, even among small leaf clusters. Given this constraint, monitoring will rely on leaf and inflorescence counts rather counts of individual plants. Herbivory is evident at most T. owyheense populations; based upon fecal evidence around grazed plants, this may be caused by a mixture of deer, rabbits, horses, and cows. Continued monitoring will eventually provide insight into long-term population trends and help track the response of populations to natural and prescribed habitat alterations.
Two Senecio ertterae research plots were established for the seed bank study. Fabric seed packets were also buried within research plots to investigate seed longevity in the soil. Excavation of these packets will begin in 2005 and take place annually for at least 4 years. Lastly, seeds were collected and returned to the lab to carry out seed viability tests and germination trials, with forthcoming results to be reported in next year’s 2005 report. As seed collecting and plot monitoring continues in future years we will begin to understand the population dynamics of this rare species and predict its response to natural forces and prescribed management actions that influence population size and seed production.