Great Basin Naturalist


The demography of black sagebrush (Artemisia nova Nelson) was investigated in the Buckskin Mountains of western Nevada to determine patterns of stand renewal in sagebrush communities currently free from wildfires. Biomass sampling was conducted to develop growth classes that reflected apparent age of the shrubs. The density of black sagebrush plants was twice that of basin big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. tridentata Nutt.) in adjacent communities on contrasting soils (2.2 versus 1.1 plants per m2). Black sagebrush accumulated only 75% as much woody biomass as big sagebrush. Regression equations were developed and tested for predicting total woody biomass, current annual growth (CAG), and leaf weight of black sagebrush plants. Apparent age classes were developed both for the black sagebrush plants and the sub-canopy mounds on which they grew. Discriminant analysis was used to test this classification system. Plant succession, apparently controlled by nitrate content of the surface soil, appeared to eliminate the successful establishment of black sagebrush seedlings on the mounds. After the shrubs die, the mounds eventually deflate. We propose that mounds reform around shrub seedlings, but because seedling establishment is so rare in these communities, this could not be verified.