Insect data from OSU research helps assess habitat quality for sage-grouse

Summer field technician collecting insect samples. Photo by Fara Brummer.

The invasive annual grassy weed cheatgrass increases the threat of wildfire in greater sage-grouse habitat that spans much of eastern Oregon. Insect populations that are the foundation of early sage-grouse chick diet may be effected by cheatgrass-infected areas. Additionally, pollinator response to changes in sage steppe health also needs to be analyzed with time-sensitive trapping.

In 2018, Fara Brummer, faculty research assistant for Oregon State University Extension in Lake County, organized a research project in collaboration with U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Extension colleagues. She hired a summer field technician that focused on examining insect populations, as well as looking at grass or screening cover in sites that are in different stages of cheatgrass invasion.

A total of 107 range sites have been sampled since 2018. The Bureau of Land Management is using some of Brummer’s insect data, which allows the agency to correlate sagebrush steppe vegetation data and insect populations to better assess the condition of sage-grouse habitat.

Additional partners from the bureau and the OSU College of Forestry were added in 2020 to expand the program to include pollinator information. Two summer technicians will be hired in 2021 to collect field data. The bureau has committed additional funding and is supporting a request for funding at the local level.

This research will ultimately help the bureau and other land managers assess site potential restoration based on invasion level and corresponding metrics based on insect information.

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