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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Quantifying Environmental Benefits Derived from Implementing Rangeland Conservation Practices to Improve Water Quality

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The primary purpose is to construct the scientific foundation for the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) by documenting what is known and what is not known about the environmental effects of conservation practices on rangelands hydrologic processes. The University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) is undertaking a cooperative project with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to document the status of knowledge regarding the environmental impact of conservation practices for improving water availability and quality in western watersheds. Specifically the project will: 1) quantify impact of cheatgrass on Great Basin ecosystem process; 2) quantify the impact conservation practices have on the hydrologic balance, water quality, and soil erosion processes of western rangelands; and 3) will improve the understanding of the sources, mobilization, and transport of dissolved solids in rangelands in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), generating knowledge which will generally be transferrable to other semi-arid and arid domestic and international rangelands.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The University of Nevada at Reno will assist ARS in conducting an international literature search to document what is known about conservation practices and their ability to mitigate mobilization and transport of soil and dissolved solids into western river systems. Based on the literature review the team will design and execute experiments to evaluate the efficiency of the conservation practice in reducing soil erosion on arid and semi-arid rangelands. The ARS-UNR team will use both sources of information to improve the USDA Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model’s ability to predict how conservation practices will improve water quantity and quality of western rivers.

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 proposed in this 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.1. Develop strategies and practices for conserving healthy rangelands and restoring degraded lands under changing environmental conditions to meet a variety of ecosystem services; 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. ARS researchers at Reno, Nevada, in collaboration with the National Agricultural Library, Bureau of Land Management, and University of Nevada Reno initiated a project to improve the understanding of sources and transport mechanisms of dissolved solids (salts) from rangelands. The team has conducted an extensive international literature review (1,000 citations) and will publish an annotated bibliography and synthesis report later this year. The team is developing synthesis of the literature on the status of what is known on salt mobilization and transport for use in developing mitigation plans for impacted areas in the western United States. Our team is working with the United States Geological Survey to build a manual of available practices and inferred impacts and benefits if implemented to reduce salt mobilization and transport. We have met with the Colorado Salinity Board and associated working groups four times, and reviewed the progress of the project. This work resulted in the Bureau of Reclamation funding a new project to quantify soil loss and salinity transport from western rangelands. The aim of this project is to determine cost effective means of enhancing degraded rangelands and reducing salinity and sedimentation in western rivers.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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