Submitted to: Country Cow
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: July 16, 2011
Publication Date: August 17, 2011
Citation: Derner, J.D. 2011. Rangeland Research Roundup -1. Cow Country. Summer 2011. Technical Abstract: Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Rangeland Research Roundup”. Please allow me to introduce myself and provide an overview of our rangeland research in this edition. My name is Justin Derner and I have been the Research Leader for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Rangeland Resources Research Unit since February 2010. I am fifth generation ranch kid from the eastern edge of the Sand Hills in Nebraska where we have a purebred Angus herd. Here, it is my distinct pleasure to show off the high quality of research conducted by the scientists and staff at the Rangeland Resources Research Unit. Our mission is to develop knowledge of ecological processes in semi-arid rangeland ecosystems, and to incorporate this knowledge into management practices which address production and conservation goals. Our research emphasizes understanding the effects of management practices and disturbances, climate and global change, and interactions on population and community processes that influence ecosystem goods and services produced from a variety of ecological states (see Figure). Major research areas address: 1) the influence of management practices, disturbance processes and interactions to influence plant community change, livestock production, vegetation heterogeneity and nesting habitat for grassland birds, 2) effects of predicted global changes (CO2, temperature, and precipitation) on plant communities, mechanisms and risks of weed invasion and nutrient cycling, 3) the development of knowledge and tools for rangeland managers regarding mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and 4) the development of field-based and remotely-sensed methodologies for assessment of and monitoring rangelands. We have 5 scientists on staff (David Augustine, Dana Blumenthal, Terry Booth, Jack Morgan and myself) and two outstanding postdoctoral scientists (Jana Heisler-White and Emily Kachergis). We have two large experimental research areas: 1) the High Plains Grasslands Research Station at Cheyenne, WY, which encompasses about 2,800 acres of northern mixed-grass prairie, and 2) the Central Plains Experimental Range at Nunn, CO, which comprises about 15,500 acres of shortgrass steppe. Our research efforts are highly collaborative with a multitude of partners. Some of these examples are: 1) prescribed fire and grazing experiments along a north-south gradient in the western Great Plains with ARS units in Miles City, MT, and Woodward, OK, 2) an atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by warming experiment (Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment, PHACE), with collaborators primarily from the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University, but also from the Institute for Biometeorology, Florence, Italy; the University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia; North Carolina State University; and other ARS units in Fort Collins, CO and Maricopa, AZ. 3) grazing, prescribed fire and prairie dog experiments with the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research project, 4) field- and remotely-sensed monitoring efforts with the Bureau of Land Management, 5) GraceNet, a collaborative national ARS project developed to evaluate agricultural practices for their potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and store soil carbon, and 6) evaluation of newly developed germplasm (grasses, legumes and shrubs) for establishment and livestock performance with the Forage and Range Research Laboratory (Logan, UT). Our webpage is www.rrru.ars.usda.gov where you can find more information about our research and staff, as well as all our publications. Upcoming columns will highlight new research on adaptive management as well as key findings from our current work.