Location: Rangeland Resources Research
Project Number: 5409-21610-001-00
Start Date: Jun 03, 2013
End Date: Jun 02, 2018
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.