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  • An Introduction and Practical Guide to Use of the Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) Data

    Barker, B.S.; Pilliod, D.S.; Welty, J.L.; Arkle, R.S.; Karl, M.G.,“Sherm”; Toevs, G.R. (Society for Range Management, 2018-11)
    Long-term vegetation dynamics across public rangelands in the western United States are not well understood because of the lack of large-scale, readily available historic datasets. The Bureau of Land Management's Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) program was implemented between 1977 and 1983 across 14 western states, but the data have not been easily accessible. We introduce the SVIM vegetation cover dataset in a georeferenced, digital format; summarize how the data were collected; and discuss potential limitations and biases. We demonstrate how SVIM data can be compared with contemporary monitoring datasets to quantify changes in vegetation associated with wildfire and the abundance of exotic invasive species. Specifically, we compare SVIM vegetation cover data with cover data collected by BLM's Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) program (2011–2016) in a focal area in the northern Great Basin. We address issues associated with analyzing and interpreting data from these distinct programs, including differences in survey methods and potential biases introduced by spatial and temporal variation in sampling. We compared SVIM and AIM survey methods at 44 plots and found that percent cover estimates had high correspondence for all measured functional groups. Comparisons between historic SVIM data and recent AIM data documented significant declines in the occupancy and cover of native shrubs and native perennial forbs, and a significant increase in exotic annual forbs. Wildfire was a driver of change for some functional groups, with greater change occurring in AIM plots that burned between the two time periods compared with those that did not. Our results are consistent with previous studies showing that many native shrub-dominated plant communities in the Great Basin have been replaced by exotic annuals. Our study demonstrates that SVIM data will be an important resource for researchers interested in quantifying vegetation change through time across public rangelands in the western United States.
  • Soil Health as a Transformational Change Agent for US Grazing Lands Management

    Derner, J.D.; Smart, A.J.; Toombs, T.P.; Larsen, D.; McCulley, R.L.; Goodwin, J.; Sims, S.; Roche, L.M. (Society for Range Management, 2018-07)
    There is rapidly growing national interest in grazing lands’ soil health, which has been motivated by the current soil health renaissance in cropland agriculture. In contrast to intensively managed croplands, soil health for grazing lands, especially rangelands, is tempered by limited scientific evidence clearly illustrating positive feedbacks between soil health and grazing land resilience, or sustainability. Opportunities exist for improving soil health on grazing lands with intensively managed plant communities (e.g., pasture systems) and formerly cultivated or degraded lands. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to provide direction and recommendations for incorporating soil health into grazing management considerations on grazing lands. We argue that the current soil health renaissance should not focus on improvement of soil health on grazing lands where potential is limited but rather forward science-based management for improving grazing lands’ resilience to environmental change via 1) refocusing grazing management on fundamental ecological processes (water and nutrient cycling and energy flow) rather than maximum short-term profit or livestock production; 2) emphasizing goal-based management with adaptive decision making informed by specific objectives incorporating maintenance of soil health at a minimum and directly relevant monitoring attributes; 3) advancing holistic and integrated approaches for soil health that highlight social-ecological-economic interdependencies of these systems, with particular emphasis on human dimensions; 4) building cross-institutional partnerships on grazing lands’ soil health to enhance technical capacities of students, land managers, and natural resource professionals; and 5) creating a cross-region, living laboratory network of case studies involving producers using soil health as part of their grazing land management. Collectively, these efforts could foster transformational changes by strengthening the link between natural resources stewardship and sustainable grazing lands management through management-science partnerships in a social-ecological systems framework.
  • Broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) Population Change in Central New Mexico: Implications for Management and Control

    Torell, L.A.; McDaniel, K.C.; Brown, J.R.; Torell, G.L. (Society for Range Management, 2018-03)
    This paper examines changes in broom snakeweed populations (Gutierrezia sarothrae [Pursh] Britt. & Rusby) from 1979 to 2014 at three prairie grassland sites in New Mexico. Data gathered each fall were used to study broom snakeweed population dynamics and to estimate the probability that the relatively short-lived subshrub will die off or invade blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [H.B.K. Lag]) rangelands. Annual broom snakeweed standing crop data were used to categorize populations as None (< 100 kg ha− 1), Light (< 300), Moderate (< 750), or Heavy (≥ 750). Ordered logit regression was then used to estimate the frequency of transition between these categories over time depending on environmental and site factors. Significant variables found to influence annual variation in broom snakeweed included the broom snakeweed standing crop and density observed the previous period (+ effect for continued broom snakeweed); grass standing crop the previous period (−); rainfall received from April to June (+); and average temperatures during April (+) and June (−). The probability of broom snakeweed invading an area that is currently without the plant ranges from about 1% to > 40% depending on environmental conditions and the amount of grass standing crop present. Transition probability estimates were also used in a Monte Carlo simulation model to evaluate the economics of broom snakeweed control. The economics of chemical broom snakeweed control were most strongly related to the rate of snakeweed reinvasion on treated areas and to the probability of natural die-off if infested areas were not sprayed.
  • Weather-Centric Rangeland Revegetation Planning

    Hardegree, S.P.; Abatzoglou, J.T.; Brunson, M.W.; Germino, M.J.; Hegewisch, K.C.; Moffet, C.A.; Pilliod, D.S.; Roundy, B.A.; Boehm, A.R.; Meredith, G.R. (Society for Range Management, 2018-01)
    Invasive annual weeds negatively impact ecosystem services and pose a major conservation threat on semiarid rangelands throughout the western United States. Rehabilitation of these rangelands is challenging due to interannual climate and subseasonal weather variability that impacts seed germination, seedling survival and establishment, annual weed dynamics, wildfire frequency, and soil stability. Rehabilitation and restoration outcomes could be improved by adopting a weather-centric approach that uses the full spectrum of available site-specific weather information from historical observations, seasonal climate forecasts, and climate-change projections. Climate data can be used retrospectively to interpret success or failure of past seedings by describing seasonal and longer-term patterns of environmental variability subsequent to planting. A more detailed evaluation of weather impacts on site conditions may yield more flexible adaptive-management strategies for rangeland restoration and rehabilitation, as well as provide estimates of transition probabilities between desirable and undesirable vegetation states. Skillful seasonal climate forecasts could greatly improve the cost efficiency of management treatments by limiting revegetation activities to time periods where forecasts suggest higher probabilities of successful seedling establishment. Climate-change projections are key to the application of current environmental models for development of mitigation and adaptation strategies and for management practices that require a multidecadal planning horizon. Adoption of new weather technology will require collaboration between land managers and revegetation specialists and modifications to the way we currently plan and conduct rangeland rehabilitation and restoration in the Intermountain West.
  • Spectrophotometry of Artemisia tridentata to Quantitatively Determine Subspecies

    Richardson, B.A.; Boyd, A.A.; Tobiasson, T.; Germino, M.J. (Society for Range Management, 2018-01)
    Ecological restoration is predicated on our abilities to discern plant taxa. Taxonomic identification is a first step in ensuring that plants are appropriately adapted to the site. An example of the need to identify taxonomic differences comes from big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). This species is composed of three predominant subspecies occupying distinct environmental niches, but overlap and hybridization are common in ecotones. Restoration of A. tridentata largely occurs using wildland collected seed, but there is uncertainty in the identification of subspecies or mix of subspecies from seed collections. Laboratory techniques that can determine subspecies composition would be desirable to ensure that subspecies match the restoration site environment. In this study, we use spectrophotometry to quantify chemical differences in the water-soluble compound, coumarin. Ultraviolet (UV) absorbance of A. tridentata subsp. vaseyana showed distinct differences among A.t. tridentata and wyomingensis. No UV absorbance differences were detected between A.t. tridentata and wyomingensis. Analyses of samples from > 600 plants growing in two common gardens showed that UV absorbance was unaffected by environment. Moreover, plant tissues (leaves and seed chaff) explained only a small amount of the variance. UV fluorescence of water-eluted plant tissue has been used for many years to indicate A.t. vaseyana; however, interpretation has been subjective. Use of spectrophotometry to acquire UV absorbance provides empirical results that can be used in seed testing laboratories using the seed chaff present with the seed to certify A. tridentata subspecies composition. On the basis of our methods, UV absorbance values < 2.7 would indicate A.t. vaseyana and values > 3.1 would indicate either A.t. tridentata or wyomingensis. UV absorbance values between 2.7 and 3.1 would indicate a mixture of A.t. vaseyana and the other two subspecies.

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