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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Great Basin Ecological Site Development

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The University of Nevada at Reno, under the direction of a UNR professor and scientist, is undertaking a cooperative project with the Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop state-and-transition models appropriate for describing the ecological dynamics of ecological sites located within Major Land Resource Areas (MLRA) 28A and 28B in Nevada. These models will describe the ecological response to a variety of disturbances associated with rangelands and also will be utilized to document the status of knowledge regarding the effect of conservation practices applied to rangelands within the Great Basin. The primary purpose is to construct state-of-the-art ecological dynamics models that will provide the platform for management decisions and generation of hypotheses for testing threshold and restoration concepts. The work will focus on the development of robust state-and-transition models for each of the 160 ecological sites within MLRA 28A and 28B. These models are a critical component of the Ecological Site Description and are utilized by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for planning and implementation of conservation practices and management actions.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The University of Nevada at Reno will assist in synthesizing the appropriate literature to document the effect of conservation practices on five basic resource concerns; (1) water availability, (2) water quality, (3) Soil quality, (4) Net Primary Productivity, and (5) habitat/landscape fragmentation for the Great Basin to develop the Ecological Site Descriptions. The partnership will do field work to collect data to document that concepts expressed for each Ecological Site Description is valid. They will also assist in developing an experimental watershed (Porter Canyon) in central Nevada where impacts of conservation practices can be quantified at both the hillslope and watershed scales.


3.Progress Report:

This research directly supports ARS Pasture, Forage and Rangeland Systems National Program NP 215 Objective B.2., "Develop decision support tools usable at multiple scales including landscape levels for inventorying and assessing rangelands; and, for selecting, implementing, and monitoring conservation and restoration practices".

This report documents the progress being made by the interagency team that was formed to develop new Ecological Site Descriptions for Nevada and provide training on use of this material for effective natural management decisions. Project was initiated in FY 2012 and is closely aligned with Project Number: 5370-11220-006-20S. Six meetings have been held with Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR) scientific partners to design the project. In addition, the team hosted a workshop for 60 federal employees with the Society for Range Management to train agency staff in the use and development of Ecological Site Descriptions. NRCS, BLM, and University partners are currently developing new State and Transition models for sagebrush-dominated systems within Nevada using a Disturbance Response Group (DRG) approach. The DRG approach aggregates similar Ecological Sites that will respond to a disturbance, such as fire, into functional State and Transition models making post fire emergency management decisions more efficient than developing individual response plans by Ecological Sites. Field work has been initiated on 59 preliminary Ecological Site Descriptions for Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) 28A and 28B. Currently, MLRA 28 A and B have 40 DRGs, encompassing 198 ecological sites. A total of 59 different ecological sites were visited during 2012, with many receiving multiple visits. Of those 59 ecological sites, 21 were modal sites for different DRGs and state and transition models have been initiated. Meetings are scheduled for this fall to review current work and plans for 2014 field season.

This agreement was established in support of objective 2 and sub-objective 2.1 of the in-house project, the goals being to devise management guidelines, technologies, and practices for conserving and restoring Great Basin rangelands. More specifically develop an integrated package of ground-based and remote sensing tools to quantify and assess the environmental impact of management decisions and conservation practices at hillslope and landscape scales in woodland, shrub-steppe, and desert ecosystems of the Great Basin.


Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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