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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Research Project #427461

Research Project: Collaborative Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) Efforts in the High Plains and Thunder Basin

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Project Number: 3012-21610-002-16-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2014
End Date: Aug 30, 2019

1) Determine economic impacts to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality with climatic variability in agroecosystems representative of the High Plains region. 2) Develop science-based decision-support tools for rangelands to aid land managers in the Thunder Basin region of Wyoming regarding the enhancement of livestock production and other ecosystem goods and services at ecological site and landscape levels.

The University of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and ARS will collaborate in the determination of economic impacts to sustain or enhance agricultural production and ecosystem services with climatic variability in agroecosystems representative of the High Plains region. These efforts will utilize data from the Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research (LTAR) network, currently consisting of 18 sites across the US. Faculty, post-docs and graduate students with the University of Wyoming will examine economic consequences of seasonal weather variability, extreme events, and predicted climatic variability on agricultural production and ecosystem services for representative agroecosystems. For example, data sets are available to evaluate economic consequences of intra- and inter-annual variability in forage and livestock production across multiple sites in the High Plains, and extending to other sites in the LTAR network as desired. In addition, operational strategies for agricultural production systems will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of each to minimize the economic risk associated with drought and climatic variability. In the Thunder Basin region, effects of management and conservation practices (e.g., prescribed fire, grazing management) and other disturbances (e.g., prairie dogs, wildfire, energy development) will be evaluated on vegetation, soil, livestock, wildlife, grassland birds and small mammal responses for individual ecological sites within pastures/allotments in large landscapes using multiple remote sensing platforms and targeted field-based sampling. Management and conservation practices implemented by public and or/private land managers will be investigated, along with pasture-scale grazing management practices. Management and conservation practices employed in this study area include variation in the season of livestock grazing, prescribed fires, manipulation of prairie dog colony distribution, invasive species and brush control. Understanding how management influences transition among vegetation states on different ecological sites, and the implications for opposing habitat needs of Greater Sage Grouse versus shortgrass associates (prairie dogs, Mountain Plover) is important for balancing conservation goals and livestock production goals in Thunder Basin. Ecological site descriptions and state-and-transition models are available but have not been updated since the early 2000’s, and customers have expressed a need for updating these.