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Disturbance in riparian areas of semiarid ecosystems involves complex interactions of pulsed hydrologic flows, herbivory, fire, climatic effects, and anthropogenic influences. We resampled riparian vegetation within ten 10-m × 100-m plots that were initially sampled in 1992 in 4 watersheds of the Snake Range, east central Nevada. Our finding of significantly lower coverage of grasses, forbs, and shrubs within plots in 2001 compared with 1992 was not consistent with the management decision to remove livestock grazing from the watersheds in 1999. Change over time in cover of life-forms or bare ground was not predicted by scat counts within plots in 2001. Cover results were also not well explained by variability between the 2 sampling periods in either density of native herbivores or annual precipitation. In contrast, Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) exhibited reduced abundance at all but the highest-elevation plot in which it occurred in 1992, and the magnitude of change in abundance was strongly predicted by plot elevation. Abundance of white fir (Abies concolor) individuals increased while aspen (Populus tremuloides) individuals decreased at 4 of 5 sites where they were sympatric, and changes in abundance in the 2 species were negatively correlated across those sites. Utility of monitoring data to detect change over time and contribute to adaptive management will vary with sample size, observer bias, use of repeatable or published methods, and precision of measurements, among other factors.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Population Biology | Systems Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology