Sagebrush-Endangered

Sagebrush-Endangered

ambience: Western Meadow

If you look out over the plains of the western United States, you’ll likely see Sage Brush. But that may soon change, along with the dynamics of an entire ecosystem. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“If you looked at the western United States, maybe 50 percent of the land mass would have sagebrush on it.”

Steven Seefeldt is with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. He says that a number of exotic plants such as knapweed and leafy spurge have invaded the sagebrush range land.

“These plants are very successful in our ecosystem because their root systems are very deep, and they’re competing for moisture that, typically, only sagebrush and other brushy or woody species can get to after a disturbance where the sagebrush has been compromised or eliminated. Now these plants don’t have to compete with any others for moisture, and there’s some evidence where some of these plant species actually exude chemicals into the soils that keep other plants, native plants, from actually being able to compete with them.”

And that’s bad news not only for the sage brush, but for the animals that feed on it.

“A lot of these exotic plant species can’t be utilized as food by our native animal species. We don’t have insects that feed very well on these plant species, and they’re taking the place of the plant species that those insects do eat. And so, those insect populations decline. The deer and the elk won’t eat these plant species. And so, what native plants you do have left then get overeaten by the native animals, and then, that just opens it up for these exotic plants to continue to expand.”

In future programs, we’ll here what steps researchers are taking to control exotic plants and save the sagebrush. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner. music

Sagebrush-Endangered

The ecosystem of the western United States is being threatened by invasive plants.
Air Date:09/27/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

Sagebrush-Endangered

ambience: Western Meadow

If you look out over the plains of the western United States, you'll likely see Sage Brush. But that may soon change, along with the dynamics of an entire ecosystem. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"If you looked at the western United States, maybe 50 percent of the land mass would have sagebrush on it."

Steven Seefeldt is with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. He says that a number of exotic plants such as knapweed and leafy spurge have invaded the sagebrush range land.

"These plants are very successful in our ecosystem because their root systems are very deep, and they're competing for moisture that, typically, only sagebrush and other brushy or woody species can get to after a disturbance where the sagebrush has been compromised or eliminated. Now these plants don't have to compete with any others for moisture, and there's some evidence where some of these plant species actually exude chemicals into the soils that keep other plants, native plants, from actually being able to compete with them."

And that's bad news not only for the sage brush, but for the animals that feed on it.

"A lot of these exotic plant species can't be utilized as food by our native animal species. We don't have insects that feed very well on these plant species, and they're taking the place of the plant species that those insects do eat. And so, those insect populations decline. The deer and the elk won't eat these plant species. And so, what native plants you do have left then get overeaten by the native animals, and then, that just opens it up for these exotic plants to continue to expand."

In future programs, we'll here what steps researchers are taking to control exotic plants and save the sagebrush. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner. music