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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improved Management to Balance Production and Conservation in Great Plains Rangelands

Location: Rangeland Resources Research

Project Number: 5409-21610-001-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 03, 2013
End Date: Jun 02, 2018

Objective:
1. Develop adaptive grazing management strategies for rangelands that balance objectives for improving livestock production and enhancing other ecosystem services under a variety of climatic conditions. Sub-objective 1.1 – Determine the contribution of adaptive grazing management to provision of ecosystem goods and services in the western Great Plains. Sub-objective 1.2 – Determine the influence of black-tailed prairie dogs on provision of ecosystem goods and services in the western Great Plains. 2. Develop science-based decision-support tools for rangelands to aid land managers in enhancing livestock production and other ecosystem goods and services at ecological site and landscape levels. Sub-objective 2.1 – Determine the influence of prior management and conservation practices on vegetation and soil responses for seven of the most widespread ecological sites in the western Great Plains. Key findings will be used to enhance state-and-transition models (decision-support tools) for major ecological sites in the western Great Plains. Sub-objective 2.2 – Determine relationships between livestock weight gains and climatic variability across multiple temporal scales. Relationships will be incorporated into decision-support tools to enhance predictive capacity and reduce risk for livestock producers in the western Great Plains. Objective 3. As part of the LTAR network, and in concert with similar long-term, land-based research infrastructure in Central Great Plains Region, use Central Plains Experimental Range LTAR to improve the observational capabilities and data accessibility of the LTAR network, to support research to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality in agroecosystems characteristic of the Central Great Plains, as per the LTAR site responsibilities and other information outlined in the 2011 USDA Long- LTAR Network Request for Information (RFI) to which the location successfully responded (http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Program/211/LTAR%20RFI%20110928.pdf), and the LTAR Shared Research Strategy (http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Program/211/LTAR%20SRS%20-%20Final%20Version%20-%20130905.pdf), a living document that serves as a roadmap for LTAR implementation. Participation in the LTAR network includes research and data management in support of the ARS GRACEnet and/or Livestock GRACEnet projects (http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/programs/programs.htm?np_code=212&docid=21223).

Approach:
The planned research is designed to address improved management to balance livestock production and conservation (e.g., wildlife habitat) in Great Plains rangelands. Research will largely be conducted in semiarid rangelands of the western Great Plains, with a north-south environmental gradient from sagebrush grasslands of northeastern Wyoming (Thunder Basin National Grassland), northern mixed-grass prairie of southeastern Wyoming (High Plains Grasslands Research Station), and shortgrass steppe of northern Colorado (Central Plains Experimental Range – a Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research network site, and Pawnee National Grassland). Research efforts will be both field-based and synthetic. Field experiments will include (1) a new collaborative adaptive grazing management experiment involving an eleven member Stakeholder Group at the Central Plains Experimental Range to evaluate desired outcomes of (a) increased livestock weight gains, (b) enhanced abundance and production of C3 perennial grasses, (c) increased vegetation heterogeneity across the landscape, and (d) increased species evenness in the grassland bird community compared to Traditional Grazing Management (season-long grazing at a moderate stocking rate), (2) evaluating the influence of black-tailed prairie dogs interacting with soil texture, topography and precipitation on livestock weight gains in shortgrass steppe at the Central Plains Experimental Range, and (3) determinations of effects of management and conservation practices (prescribed fire, grazing management) and other disturbances (prairie dogs, wildfire) on vegetation and soil responses for seven major ecological sites using multiple remote sensing platforms (including unmanned aerial vehicles in collaboration with the ARS Las Cruces (Jornada) unit) and targeted field-based sampling in sagebrush grasslands (Thunder Basin National Grassland), northern mixed-grass prairie (High Plains Grasslands Research Station) and shortgrass steppe (Central Plains Experimental Range/Pawnee National Grassland). Synthesis efforts involve the determination of relationships between livestock weight gains and climatic variability across multiple temporal scales at three ARS locations (Cheyenne, WY; Mandan, ND, and Miles City, MT). Relationships will be incorporated into decision-support tools to enhance predictive capacity and reduce risk for livestock producers in the western Great Plains (through collaborations with the ARS Fort Collins Agricultural Systems Research Unit). Will 1) Refurbish 6 existing and install 2 new microwatersheds with new flumes, instrumentation, soil water devices and rain gauges, 2) install soil water monitoring in areas with biomass production plots, 3) expand GPS and pedometer monitoring of livestock grazing behavior, 4) increase sampling of phenology, plant traits and net primary productivity, 5) initiate new remote sensing work involving UAS, and 6) archive and manage data for availability within the LTAR network as well as others.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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