Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 29, 2010
Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Citation: Hardegree, S.P., T.A. Jones, B.A. Roundy, N.L. Shaw and T.A. Monaco. 2011. Assessment of range planting as a conservation practice. Chapter 4, In: Briske, D.D., editor. Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices: Assessment, Recommendations, and Knowledge Gaps. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press. p. 171-212. Interpretive Summary: NRCS assists private-land owners in developing conservation management plans to improve rangeland productivity and species composition. The Range Planting Conservation Practice Standard provides specific guidance for seedbed preparation, planting methods, plant materials selection, seeding rate, seeding depth, timing of seeding and weed control. We surveyed the journal literature on these range seeding practices and determined that most individual studies are not sufficiently replicated to make general inferences, but that the literature as a whole supports Range Seeding Conservation Practice recommendations. Conservation Practice Standards assume that successful implementation of recommended practices will have the following positive conservation effects: improved forage for wildlife and livestock; improved wildlife habitat; improved water quality and quality; decreased erosion; and increased carbon sequestration. There are very few studies directly linking rangeland seeding to specific conservation effects. The literature does support the underlying assumptions, however, that successful changes in the underlying vegetation state have positive conservation benefits. NRCS Conservation Practice Standards could be improved by establishing standard monitoring requirements to assess both the effectiveness of specific management recommendations, and conservation effects of successful practices.
Technical Abstract: Range Planting Conservation Practice Standards provide general and specific guidelines for making decisions about seedbed preparation, planting methods, plant materials selection, seeding rate, seeding depth, timing of seeding, post-planting management, and weed-control. Adoption of these standards is expected to contribute to successful improvement of vegetation composition and productivity of grazed plant communities. Conservation effects attributed to range-planting conservation practices are: improved forage for livestock; improved forage, browse or cover for wildlife; improved water quality and quantity; reduced wind or water erosion; and increased carbon sequestration. Additional conservation-effects associated with related conservation practices include: reduction of negative weed impacts; and reduction of wildfire hazard. The success of specific conservation practices, and magnitude of conservation effects, are both highly dependent upon ecological-site characteristics, the initial degree of deviation from desired site characteristics, and weather, all of which are highly variable in both time and space. Previous research has produced virtually no refereed-journal literature directly linking range-planting conservation practices to conservation effects. Assessment of conservation-effects attributed to rangeland-planting practices must, therefore, be separated into two components: evidence of the degree to which specific management practices have been shown to result in desirable vegetation change; and evidence supporting positive conservation-effects of alternative vegetation states. We surveyed the literature on both specific conservation practices and select conservation effects and found that the literature is dominated by empirical studies that individually provide examples of field success, but are insufficiently replicated for general inferences. In general the aggregate literature supports specific conservation practice recommendations, however, weather and climatic factors dominate the degree to which these practices are successful. NRCS Conservation Practice Standards could be improved by establishing standard monitoring requirements to assess both the effectiveness of specific management recommendations, and conservation effects of successful practices. Monitoring requirements, however, should be based on an explicit experimental design that would facilitate future meta-analysis.