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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Quantifying and Predicting Impacts and Benefits of Conservation on Grazing Lands

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Principal focus of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) effort is to produce national and regional assessments of environmental benefits/impacts of conservation programs to support policy decision and program implementation grazing lands by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). CEAP research team will conduct cooperative research and implementation activities to assess impacts of conservation in rangeland and pasture systems across the United States; Assess National soil loss on rangelands; and Assess benefits/impacts of conservation in western rangeland watersheds using RHEM, APEX, and AGWA-SWAT hydrologic models.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Conduct rainfall simulation studies to assess impacts on invasive species (cheatgrass and pinyon and juniper species) on soil loss and rangeland health to enhance the Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model (RHEN). Develop a relational database from public sources (i.e., USGS, NRCS, EPA, BLM, USFS, NASA, and NOAA). This relational database will then be used to extend experimental data being collected by ARS to evaluate and improve the RHEM, Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), and the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) models abilities to quantify the impact of conservation practices. The validated models will then be applied to estimate the impact of conservation practices on water quality, soil quality, sustainability of rangeland ecosystems, and wildlife habitat in regional and national assessments in partnership with the NRCS.

ARS Agrees to:

1) Provide leadership and coordination of the overall USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). 2) Assist the Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners with the development of the CEAP rangeland component. 3) Initiate collection of vegetation and hydrologic data for use in defining the impact of conservation practices on surface and ground water interaction for plant communities within the Great Basin. The data will be used to validate USDA-ARS rangeland models such as ALMANAC, RHEM, KINEROS, APEX and SWAT models. 4) Provide the necessary equipment to define plant communities’ delineations for use by the CEAP rangeland models. 5) Will assist in the development of an integrated relational database for use in assessing the status and condition of western ecosystems as part of the newly initiated CEAP rangeland component.


3.Progress Report:

This agreement is related to objective 3 of the in-house project, "Develop and transfer innovative management approaches and technology for conserving and rehabilitating sagebrush, pinyon/juniper woodlands, and salt desert shrublands to meet natural resource and agricultural production goals". The research project will help achieve the following National Program 215 (Pasture, Forage, and Rangeland Systems) objectives through initiation of individual and multi-agency joint research projects: 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.

The USDA team working on the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) has developed a new process based model for assessing soil erosion rates on rangeland hillslopes. The USDA team is leading the effort to develop a new west wide assessment of the status of soil erosion on western rangelands. Our team has developed an assessment of the status of rangeland soil erosion on non-Federal held rangelands in association with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and submitted the findings for publication. This is the first comprehensive assessment of rangelands and provides USDA with a technology to assess the benefits of conservation activities that have been funded through the USDA Farm Bill. The team held three symposiums where 12 talks were presented at the 2013 Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference to present recent findings on techniques to estimate soil erosion on rangelands. The team has developed an assessment of cost-benefits of wildfire avoidance and impacts on reductions of soil erosion. This work will be submitted for publication by September of 2013 to a peer reviewed journal for publication.


Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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