GRAZING LANDS CONSERVATION EFFECTS ASSESSMENT PROJECT
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory
2013 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective is to develop methods to determine the environmental outcomes for grazing land conservation practices at multiple scales.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
National Resource Inventory rangeland and pastureland data along with historical vegetation data from multiple ARS locations will be used refine and enhance the development of ecological site descriptions that reflect ecological and production attributes of rangeland and pastureland.
Field research initiated in 2011 to define relationships between plant diversity and rangeland health in semiarid environments was continued in 2013 to include new rangeland sites in Colorado and Montana. Research on 24 rangeland sites in North and South Dakota in 2012 and 2013 revealed that relationships between plant species diversity and invasion of native rangeland by exotic grasses differed by grass species and scale of measurement. At the local (1 m2) scale there was a negative relationship between invasion of bluegrass (canopy cover abundance) and plant species richness of native rangeland, whereas at the larger 1000 m2 scale there was no relationship. For smooth bromegrass, however, the relationship was the same at each scale. Access was granted to pastureland National Resource Inventory data to support NRCS data review and quality assurance processes. Preliminary data review revealed inconsistencies in some of the pastureland NRI protocol results and suggested a need for improvements. Historical data sets on vegetation change and productivity were assembled from information at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory for use in modeling efforts. A meeting was held in El Reno, OK in February 2013 to outline modeling and data needs to support national assessments of pastureland conservation practices.