Wetlands are dynamic habitats with many unique, important functions including filtering sediments and providing diverse habitats for fish and wildlife. Wetlands in the western United States are particularly important because they offer habitat for a number of protected runs of endangered fish species. Historically, livestock grazing has altered wetland and riparian area form and function by facilitating exotic species invasions, altering spatial heterogeneity of vegetation, and increasing erosion. In this study we examined vegetation structure and erosion potential in a wetland meadow exposed to unregulated grazing along Deer Creek in the Salmon River subbasin, Idaho. We characterized the vegetation composition and structure within the study area and attempted to assess potential erosion conditions using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), an empirical approach developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS). We found no significant spatial variability in species richness and noted a moderate number of exotic species in the total plant composition. Plant cover was higher near slightly entrenched banks, indicating that uncontrolled livestock were primarily occupying gently sloped streambanks and the interior of the meadow. Based on current vegetation composition and RUSLE results, uncontrolled grazing may be negatively impacting the study area. If uncontrolled grazing were excluded or carefully managed in the wetland meadows of the upper portion of the Deer Creek watershed, a reduction in excess sediments to Deer Creek may occur.
Hopfensperger, Kristine N.; Wu, Joan Q.; and Gill, Richard A.
"Plant composition and erosion potential of a grazed wetland in the Salmon River subbasin, Idaho,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 66
, Article 9.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol66/iss3/9