Calamagrostis montanensis



INTRODUCTORY


 

  Photo courtesy of North Dakota State University Extension Service
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Hauser, A. Scott. 2006. Calamagrostis montanensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
CALMON

SYNONYMS:
None

NRCS PLANT CODE [87]:
CAMO

COMMON NAMES:
plains reedgrass
prairie reedgrass

TAXONOMY:
The currently accepted scientific name of plains reedgrass is Calamagrostis montanensis Scribn. ex Vasey (Poaceae) [33,34,35,43,52,53,55,91].

LIFE FORM:
Graminoid

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
Plains reedgrass is listed as a plant of special concern in Minnesota [65].

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Calamagrostis montanensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Plains reedgrass has a contiguous distribution. It occurs from British Columbia east to Manitoba and south to Idaho and Colorado [14,33,34,35,43,47,52,53,55,91]. Grass Manual on the Web provides a distributional map of plains reedgrass.

ECOSYSTEMS [38]:
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES

CO ID MN MT ND SD WY

CANADA
AB BC MB SK

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [11]:
5 Columbia Plateau
10 Wyoming Basin
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

KUCHLER [58] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie

SAF COVER TYPES [37]:
16 Aspen
63 Cottonwood
107 White spruce
206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
235 Cottonwood-willow
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [79]:
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass
309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue
323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue
324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
404 Threetip sagebrush
405 Black sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
409 Tall forb
410 Alpine rangeland
411 Aspen woodland
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
610 Wheatgrass
611 Blue grama-buffalo grass
612 Sagebrush-grass
613 Fescue grassland
614 Crested wheatgrass
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Plains reedgrass is listed as a dominant species in the following vegetation classifications:

UNITED STATES
MT:
1. Beaverhead and Madison counties (needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass-Arizona wheatgrass (Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii-Elymus arizonicus) association) [24]
2. Vigilante Experimental Range (Idaho fescue-thickspike wheatgrass (Festuca idahoensis-Elymus lanceolatus) association) [36]
3. Eastern glaciated plains (common associates include western wheatgrass, thickspike wheatgrass, prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), and green needlegrass (Nassella viridula))
4. Western glaciated plains (common associates include western wheatgrass, thickspike wheatgrass, needle-and-thread grass, prairie Junegrass, and green needlegrass)
5. Western sedimentary plains (common associates include western wheatgrass, thickspike wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia), prairie Junegrass, basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata), and green needlegrass)
6. Foothills and mountains (common associates include western wheatgrass, basin wildrye (Elymus cinereus), thickspike wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, prairie sandreed, prairie Junegrass, basin big sagebrush, and green needlegrass) [76]

ND:
Little Missouri Badlands (associates not given in review) [17]

Regions:
Great Basin (other dominant grasses listed in this review include thickspike wheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass) [62]

CANADA
AB:
Mountain valley grasslands along the east slope of the Rocky Mountains, particularly Jasper National Park (prairie Junegrass association) [5,75,83,84]

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Calamagrostis montanensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g., [14,35,47,52,53]).

Plains reedgrass is a cool-season, single stalked [40], native perennial [14,47,52,53]. At maturity, it may reach a height of 20 inches (60 cm), but is generally from 6 to 14 inches (15-35 cm) tall [33,34,35,47,52,53]. Plains reedgrass leaves are stiff, erect, strongly rolled, mostly basal, 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) long [47] and up to 3 mm broad [33,34,35,47,52,53]. The panicle is scarcely interrupted, 1 to 4 inches (3-10 cm) long and 0.4 to 0.6 inch (1-1.5 cm) wide [47,52,53]. The spikelets of plains reedgrass are 1-flowered and 3 to 5.5 mm long [14,47]. Plains reedgrass fruits are awned caryopses [33,53].

Plains reedgrass is sod-forming [26,28], with slender rhizomes that are 0.3 to 0.5 mm in diameter and have short, thin leaves at each node [28]. The roots are approximately the same diameter as the rhizomes [28]. On the mixed-grass prairie of Saskatchewan, plains reedgrass roots reached a depth of 3 to 3.6 feet (1-1.1 m). Lateral roots were most abundant at depths below 10 inches (30 cm) and were 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) in length [28]. In a sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) community in North Park, Colorado, the majority of plains reedgrass roots were found at a depth of 1 to 1.5 feet (30-46 cm) [80].

RAUNKIAER [74] LIFE FORM:
Geophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Plains reedgrass reproduces via rhizomes [14,47,52,53,66] and seeds [12,13,66,71].

Pollination: Plains reedgrass is wind pollinated [42,51,88].

Breeding system: Plains reedgrass is wind pollinated [42,51,88], so mating system is primarily outcrossing.

Seed production: Information on plains reedgrass seed production is lacking. A fire study by Blaisdell [12] (see Plant Response to Fire) found that by postfire year 3, seed production of plains reedgrass exceeded prefire seed production.

Seed dispersal: Plains reedgrass seeds are likely dispersed by wind. The seeds are awned [33,53], which may facilitate dispersal by animals.

Seed banking: Most grasses have dormancy and thus may have a soil seed bank [9]. To date (2006), studies are lacking on longevity of plains reedgrass seeds.

Germination: No information is available on this topic.

Seedling establishment/growth: No information is available on this topic.

Asexual regeneration: Plains reedgrass is strongly rhizomatous [14,47,52,53]. To date (2006), studies are lacking on the growth rate of plains reedgrass rhizomes.

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Plains reedgrass occurs on dry open areas of grasslands [16,25,26,27,45], sagebrush benchlands [12,13,46], and foothills and mountains [24,76,98] of the northern Great Plains and Great Basin.

Climate: Plains reedgrass can withstand rigorous climatic conditions [23]. In Montana, plains reedgrass grows in the continental semiarid climate zone [18,20,60]. In the northern Great Plains and the Canadian mixed-grass prairie, annual precipitation ranges from 12 to 18 inches (300-460 mm) [26,27]. Where plains reedgrass is dominant in the Badlands mixed grasslands of Montana and southwestern North Dakota, 75% of the precipitation falls during the growing season (April to September) [16,20]. Plains reedgrass can tolerate a temperate range of 48 F (44 C) in the winter to 111 F (44 C) in the summer [32].

Elevation: The elevational ranges for plains reedgrass are presented in the table below:

Region/State/Province Elevation
Colorado 7,876 to 9,724 feet [39,47]
Montana 2,200 to 7,000 feet [18,20,24]
North Dakota 2,000 to 2,600 feet [45]
Black Hills 3,259 to 5,309 feet [85]
northern Great Plains 1,500 to 3,500 feet [27]
southern Alberta 1,800 to 3,800 feet [23,54]
southwestern Saskatchewan 1,800 to 3,800 feet [23,54]
Canadian mixed prairie 800 to 4,000 feet [26]

Soils: Plains reedgrass primarily grows on sandy to silty loam soil [20,23,83]. In southwestern Saskatchewan, plains reedgrass is equally distributed on fine sandy loam, light loam, loam, and clay loam soils [54]. Plains reedgrass is found in small quantities on saline soils in Saskatchewan [31] and Montana [69].

Soil characteristics of a site in Fremont County, Wyoming, where plains reedgrass occurs, are presented below [10]:

Soil components
pH 7.54
Nitrogen (%) 0.6779
Organic matter (%) 10.6189
Phosphorus (ppm) 7.430
Sulfur (ppm) 97.70
Magnesium (ppm) 448.7
Sodium (ppm) 71.30
Aluminum (ppm) 0.799
Copper (ppm) 0.582
Potassium (ppm) 219.3
Manganese (ppm) 5.407
Iron (ppm) 1.477
Calcium (ppm) 7,158.0
Selenium (ppm) 0.03

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Plains reedgrass thrives on disturbed sites [12,13,24,83], such as burned areas [12,13,71], and occurs in all stages of succession. It is found on primary successional disturbed sites in Beaverhead and Madison counties of Montana [24]. Plains reedgrass occurs on secondary successional sites in the mixed-grass prairie of southwestern North Dakota [15,16]. In the northern Great Plains, plains reedgrass is a "preclimax" species in the shortbristle needle-and-thread-Montana wheatgrass (Hesperostipa curtiseta-Elymus albicans) association and a "climax" species in the blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)-Montana wheatgrass association [26,27]. Plains reedgrass is also listed as a "climax" species in the Canadian mixed-grass prairie [25] and in the eastern glaciated plains, western glaciated plains, western sedimentary plains, and the foothills and mountains of Montana [76,98]. Stringer [83] hypothesizes that plains reedgrass-prairie Junegrass communities in Jasper National Park, Alberta, are secondary "climax" grasslands of a more productive vegetation type that have increased due to anthropogenic disturbances such as fire in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Plains reedgrass begins growth in early April in the mixed-grass prairie of western North Dakota. A study conducted there from 1955 to 1962 found that on average, plains reedgrass attains its maximum leaf height (8.2 inches (20.9 cm)) on 20 July and maximum stalk height (10.1 inches (25.6 cm)) in late June. The table below describes the maximum leaf and stalk heights of plains reedgrass from 1955 to 1962 in western North Dakota [40]:

1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962
Maximum leaf height (cm) 27.0 19.0 22.0 21.0 18.0 18.0 18.0 24.0
Maximum stalk height (cm) 30.0 19.0 32.0 21.0 13.0 29.0 --- 35.0

On the Canadian mixed-grass prairie, plains reedgrass begins growth during the last half of April. Plains reedgrass spikelets appear around mid-June, flowering begins by the end of June, and by mid-July seeds reach maturity [26]. Hitchcock and others [53] and the Great Plains Flora Association [43] describe a similar flowering period for plains reedgrass in Idaho and the northern Great Plains.

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Calamagrostis montanensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Fire adaptations: Plains reedgrass establishes after fire through seed and/or lateral spread by rhizomes [12,13,19,71,93]. Three years after a prescription fire in a southern Idaho sagebrush-grassland, plains reedgrass showed increased seed production compared to prefire rates. Blaisdell [12] hypothesizes that an increase in plains reedgrass seed production after fire facilitates seed dispersal onto open, bare sites such as burns.

Fire regimes: Plains reedgrass is found in the sagebrush-grasslands of the northern Great Basin and in the mixed-grass prairies of the northern Great Plains, which exhibit a wide range of historic fire frequencies.

Northern Great Plains: Historically fire has played an important role in the northern Great Plains. The large tracts of continuous mixed-grass prairie, which occur in hot, dry areas and accumulate much fine fuel, are susceptible to frequent lightning fires. Higgins [49] estimates that 6 lightning fires consuming 4,000 miles (10,000 km) of grasslands occur a year in eastern North Dakota, and 25 lightning fires consuming 4,000 miles (10,000 km) of grasslands occur a year in western North Dakota. Early records kept by explorers, trappers, and settlers note a high occurrence of fires, both natural and anthropogenic, with fires occurring at intervals of 5 to 10 years [29,70,95]. Since the early 1900s, fire has been excluded, allowing nonnative species such as Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus), smooth brome (B. inermis), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) to take a strong hold in the area [29].

Plains reedgrass-prairie Junegrass communities in Jasper National Park, Alberta, are typically associated with Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia), Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) forests. Fire suppression in the Alberta Rocky Mountains beginning in the late 1800's has led to an unprecedented increase of coniferous trees on plains reedgrass-prairie Junegrass grasslands [5,75]. Using fire scar evidence, a fire history chronology was established in Jasper National Park for 1665 to 1975. Grassland fires were most commonly surface fires. The mean fire return intervals for 3 grassland sites in the southern, center, and northern section of the Park are presented in the table below [84]:

Location Number of fires Mean fire return interval (years) Range (years)
Prairie de la Vache (S.) 10 18.8 10-39
Maligne River (Ctr.) 9 21.2 1-67
Henry House (N.) 7 21.7 1-40

Sagebrush-grasslands: Fire in the sagebrush-grasslands where plains reedgrass grows likely occurred with a frequency of 20 to 70 years [70]. Wright and others [96] hypothesize that fires likely occurred about every 50 years. Changes in land use and management practices, such as the invasion of cheatgrass (B. tectorum), have altered the fire return interval to less than 10 years in some areas [68,70].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where plains reedgrass is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [57,70]
Nebraska sandhills prairie Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [70]
silver sagebrush steppe Artemisia cana 5-45 [48,73,95]
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [70]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [78]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [3,21,64]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (x=40) [89,97]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [70,95]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [70,77,95]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum <10 [72,92]
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35 [70]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [70,73,95]
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa 35 to >200 [2]
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [70]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-340 [7,8,84]
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [2]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [2,6,61]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [2,44,63]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (x=10) [1,2]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [2,3,4]
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. <35 [70]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [82]:
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Calamagrostis montanensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Plains reedgrass is likely top-killed by fire, with rhizomes protected by insulating soil [12,13,19,71,93].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
No additional information is available on this topic.

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Plains reedgrass recovers from fire by rhizomatous spread and/or establishing from seed [12,13,71]. Seed dispersal onto burned sites is likely effected by wind. While plains reedgrass may utilize a seed bank [9], as of this study (2006), there is a lack of information on seed tolerance to fire. The only fire study of plains reedgrass to date (2006) occurred in a basin big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass-plains reedgrass community in Clark County, southern Idaho. Blaisdell and others [12,13] found that production (lbs./acre) of plains reedgrass and thickspike wheatgrass, taken together, decreased during postfire year 1, but by postfire year 3 production increased until postfire year 12. The prescription fire also caused an increase in plains reedgrass and thickspike wheatgrass seed production by postfire year 3 [12]. Harniss and Murray [46] returned to the burn site in postfire year 30 and found plains reedgrass and thickspike wheatgrass production at or slightly below prefire levels.

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
The prescription fire in Clark County, Idaho, facilitated a significant (p<0.01 and p<0.05) increase in production of plains reedgrass and thickspike wheatgrass, taken together, over production on unburned range beginning in postfire year 3 until approximately postfire year 12 [12,13]. Growth of the 2 grasses was greatest in "heavy burn" areas (See definitions below). The 1-mile burn area is on the United States Sheep Experiment Station range at an elevation of approximately 6,000 feet (2,000 m). The area is composed primarily of big basin sagebrush (40% cover) and perennial grasses (~ 35% cover of bluebunch wheatgrass, plains reedgrass, bluegrasses (Poa spp.), Idaho fescue, prairie Junegrass, and thickspike wheatgrass). The area was burned in August 1936 after the seed of most perennial grasses had been disseminated and the plants were dry or nearly dry. No grazing occurred during the 1936 growing season and for all of 1937. After 1937, the area was "conservatively" grazed by domestic sheep in spring and fall. Average rate of stocking was approximately 2 acres per domestic sheep month [12,13].

Within the 1-mile burn area, 400 circular plots with an area of 100 feet were established. Plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass occurred in 83 plots. Vegetation samples were taken in 1937 (postfire year 1), 1939 (postfire year 3), and 1948 (postfire year 12). Immediately following the fire, plots were classified as heavy burn, moderate burn, light burn, and unburned. Heavy burning was described as a fire that consumed the trunk or main stem of basin big sagebrush. Moderate burning was a fire that consumed smaller branches and twigs, with larger branches of basin big sagebrush remaining. Light burning was a fire that consumed only the leaves of basin big sagebrush. To allow for rapid field identification, the researchers grouped plains reedgrass and thickspike wheatgrass together. The trends in production resulting from burning treatments are shown in the table below. Postfire production is expressed as a percentage of production on unburned range. Plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass production was less than in unburned range in postfire year 1, but exceeded production on unburned range in postfire year 3 and postfire year 12 [12,13].

Treatment 1937 (postfire year 1) 1939 (postfire year 3) 1948 (postfire year 12)
Light burn 93 169 154
Moderate burn 79 134 173
Heavy burn 81 180 191

In postfire year 12, air-dry herbage production of plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass was measured on unburned, light burned, moderate burned, and heavy burned sites. Plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass production was positively affected by increased fire severity [12,13]. The following table describes air-dry herbage production of plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass on the 4 treatments at postfire year 12 [12,13]:

Treatment Production (lbs/acre)
Unburned 111.8
Light burn 194.9
Moderate burn 208.4
Heavy burn 222.8

By 1966 (postfire year 30), plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass air-dry herbage production on unburned sites was greater than on burned sites [12,13]. Harniss and Murray [46] returned to the burn site 30 years after the fire and found that plains reedgrass/thickspike wheatgrass production on unburned sites was 152 pounds/acre and 92 pounds/acre on burned sites. In their study, Harniss and Murray did not differentiate between light, moderate, and heavy burn sites [46].

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
The research described above suggests that prescription burning favors plains reedgrass. If fire is used to manage plains reedgrass, however, managers should use caution and follow the guidelines addressed below.

Burning season: In the northern Great Plains, best increases in seed production, vigor, and canopy cover of cool-season grasses are obtained when prescription fires are conducted in early spring (March-April) or late summer (August-September) [50]. In sagebrush-grasslands, burning favors rhizomatous species such as plains reedgrass if fires are conducted when rhizomatous plants are dormant [12,19].

Grazing: Burned rangelands containing plains reedgrass should be protected from grazing during postfire year 1 to allow for uninterrupted growth of herbaceous vegetation [12,19].

Invasive species: Improper fire management may convert desirable shrub and perennial grass stands to annual grass and invasive shrub stands [93,96]. Wright and others [96] suggest that if fires occur in big sagebrush-grasslands at frequencies of less than every 50 years, the communities may become dominated by rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and gray horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens), sprouting species that respond vigorously to fire. Cheatgrass may also expand after fire and severely reduce native plant coverage [71,93,96].

Sagebrush-grassland communities: Plains reedgrass occurs in sagebrush-grasslands with species that can be harmed by fire [93]. June or July fires can be especially harmful to Idaho fescue and needle-and-thread grass [12,96]. Threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia), which has a compact growth form, is also harmed by fire [96]. Big sagebrush is slow to recover from extensive fires [12].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Calamagrostis montanensis
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Plains reedgrass provides substantial forage on dry benches and sagebrush flats, and is considered fair to good forage for cattle and horses [14,66,86]. Its forage rating for domestic sheep is poor to fair [66,86]. Plains reedgrass is the only species of the genus Calamagrostis that has much range grazing importance on the dry prairies and foothills of the northern Great Plains [86].

In a cattle grazing study on western Montana rangelands, plains reedgrass was slightly to moderately grazed in needle-and-thread grass-blue grama communities, moderately to heavily grazed in bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama communities, moderately grazed in bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass communities, and slightly to heavily grazed in rough fescue (Festuca altaica)-bluebunch wheatgrass communities [67].

Plains reedgrass-prairie Junegrass grasslands along the east slope of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta are heavily grazed by elk and bighorn sheep in spring, fall, and winter [5,83].

Palatability/nutritional value: Plains reedgrass has coarse leaves, making it less palatable than most prairie species in its range [12]. The palatability of plains reedgrass is rated as follows [30,67]:

  Montana North Dakota Wyoming Colorado
Cattle fair-good ---- fair fair
Domestic sheep poor-fair fair fair fair
Horses fair fair fair fair
Elk fair-good ---- ---- ----
Mule deer poor poor poor ----
White-tailed deer ---- poor poor ----

Early in the growing season, plains reedgrass is considered high in nutritional value, but deteriorates by mid-summer [94]. During the growing seasons 1946 and 1947, the average moisture and nutritive content of plains reedgrass was measured at Dickinson Experiment Station in western North Dakota. The moisture, carotene, protein, and phosphorus values for plains reedgrass were on average lower than the upland cool season species western wheatgrass, needle-and-thread grass, threadleaf sedge, and prairie Junegrass [94].

  May June July August September
Moisture (%) 60.9 57.7 49.8 31.6 24.4
Carotene (mg/100 g.) 25.8 23.2 12.0 5.8 4.6
Crude protein (%) 14.3 12.8 8.4 6.0 5.5
Phosphorus (%) 0.218 0.214 0.173 0.128 0.127

Cover value: Plains reedgrass provides cover for ungulates, small mammals, and birds. The cover value for plains reedgrass for wildlife species is rated as follows [30]:

  Montana North Dakota Wyoming
Pronghorn ---- poor poor
Mule deer ---- good poor
White-tailed deer ---- good poor
Small mammals ---- ---- fair
Small nongame birds fair ---- ----
Upland game birds fair ---- ----
Waterfowl poor ---- ----

Plains reedgrass provides cover for greater sage-grouse on dry upland sagebrush communities of southwestern Colorado [39] and eastern Idaho [56].

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Plains reedgrass is a strongly rhizomatous [14,47,52,53], sod-forming [26,28] grass. While there is no research available, it likely has erosion control potential.

OTHER USES:
No information is available on this topic.

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Fertilization: Goetz [41] discusses the effects of nitrogen fertilization on plains reedgrass.

Grazing: Plains reedgrass both increased and decreased under cattle grazing pressure in the mixed-grass prairies of southwestern North Dakota. On 2 study sites, Sagebrush Flat and East Tracy Mountain, mean aboveground biomass was 41.6 g/m and 0.7 g/m on grazed plots and 101.7 g/m and 1.3 g/m on ungrazed plots, respectively. At West Tracy Mountain and Sandy Upland, mean aboveground biomass was substantially lower on ungrazed (0.1 g/m and <0.1 g/m, respectively) than grazed (6.7 g/m and 1.5 g/m, respectively) plots [16,17]. At the Dickinson Experimental Station in the North Dakota mixed-grass prairie, plains reedgrass was not found on ungrazed sites, but made up 16% of vegetation on livestock grazed sites [25]. A further study in North Dakota found a slight increase of plains reedgrass on cattle grazed sites (0.3% basal cover) compared to ungrazed sites (0.1% basal cover) [15].

Plains reedgrass both significantly (p<0.01) increased and decreased under cattle and domestic sheep grazing pressure on the Vigilante Experimental Range in southwestern Montana. In an Idaho fescue-thickspike wheatgrass-plains reedgrass community, plains reedgrass averaged 8.9 stems/cm on grazed sites and 15.2/cm on sites protected from grazing for 26 years. In a Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda) community, plains reedgrass stem density on grazed sites was 14.6/cm and 6.7/cm on sites protected from grazing for 15 to 18 years [36]. On both sites, grazing caused a significant (p<0.01) decrease in the mature height of plains reedgrass. In the Idaho fescue-thickspike wheatgrass-plains reedgrass community, the average mature height measured 5.6 inches (14.3 cm) on grazed plots and 7.2 inches (18.4 cm) on ungrazed plots. In the Sandberg bluegrass community, the average mature height of plains reedgrass was 4.9 inches (12.4 cm) on grazed plots and 5.6 inches (14.2 cm) on ungrazed plots [36].

Zacek and others [98] describe plains reedgrass as an "increaser" on grazed range sites in the foothills and mountains of western Montana. Lacey and Mosley [59] describes plains reedgrass as an "increaser" on Montana rangelands. On the northern Great Plains, plains reedgrass both increased and decreased when subjected to grazing pressures [81].

Domestic sheep grazing on a ranch in Meagher County, Montana, caused a decrease in plains reedgrass cover (%), herbage yield, leaf growth, and seed stalk growth. Cover of plains reedgrass on protected and grazed sites in 1953 and 1957 ranged from 0.4% to 1.5%. In 1957, average herbage yield of plains reedgrass was 70 lbs/acre on protected sites and 50 lbs/acre on grazed sites. Plains reedgrass average longest leaf and tallest seed stalk was 6 inches (15 cm) and 9 inches (24 cm) on protected sites and 5 inches (12 cm) and 8 inches (21 cm) on grazed sites, respectively [90].

Herbicides: Carr [22] discusses the effect of 2,4-D on plains reedgrass.

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