Great Basin Naturalist


Understory phytomass production in a western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) woodland was examined relative to tree size in central Oregon in 1983 and 1984. Vegetation was sampled in two zones, the canopy zone (beneath the canopy) and the intercanopy zone (the space between canopies), on two adjacent sites—a lower slope site with shallow soil and an upper slope site with deeper soil. Sampling was stratified into three tree size classes. Individual species production was significantly affected by tree size and location relative to tree canopy. Production of bottlebrush squirreltail, bluebunch wheatgrass, cheatgrass, miscellaneous annual grasses, perennial forbs, and annual forbs increased with increasing tree size. Sandberg bluegrass production was greater in the intercanopy than the canopy zone, while production of bottlebrush squirreltail, bluebunch wheatgrass, miscellaneous annual grasses, and both perennial and annual forbs was greater in the canopy zone. Production of cheatgrass was determined by the interaction of tree size and zone. Phytomass relationships were expressed to a greater degree on the upper slope site, where total production exceeded that of the lower slope site by approximately 50% the second year of the study.

Individual trees appear to exert a great influence on associated vegetation as western juniper woodlands progress from the seedling (tree establishment) phase to closed stands of mature trees. Original community dominants appear to be spatially segregated beneath tree canopies and associated with large trees, while formerly less common species, such as cheatgrass, come to dominate the entire site.