2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Investigating Seasonal Growth Patterns and Drought in Big Sagebrush

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Trevor Caughlin


As climate change continues to alter global temperatures and weather patterns, sagebrush ecosystems have been adversely affected by an increase in dry seasons and wildfires. We sought to investigate how seasonal growth patterns of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentate) respond to droughts. Two growing conditions are the focus of this experiment: topographic aspect and plant age. We marked current year's stems on 26 sagebrush plants for size change measurements every other week, and split the sample size evenly on south- and north-facing slopes. While the monitoring is still ongoing, our preliminary results show a difference depending on which slope the plants are growing on. Sagebrush stem length on north-facing slopes were on average 39% longer than sagebrush stems growing on south-facing slopes. This result was unexpected because south-facing sagebrush experienced more optimal growing conditions in early spring due to longer snow retention on the north slope. We hypothesize that past growing conditions and ecological memory may be affecting current growth patterns for south- and north-facing shrubs. Such information can aid future restoration decisions and help promote quicker recovery of this important plant that so many organisms depend on.

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