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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Research Project #433549

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Project Number: 3050-11210-008-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 7, 2017
End Date: Sep 27, 2018

The goal of the Jornada is to develop ecologically based knowledge systems and technologies for management, conservation, monitoring, and assessment of western rangelands. Our long-term research objective is to increase understanding of fundamental relationships among management practices, ecological processes, and climatic variability to improve rangeland production, conservation, and restoration. Our research plan will produce technologies to address regional and national concerns relevant to major land resource areas across the western U.S.: 1) Develop data-driven approaches in the production of ecological site descriptions that guide rangeland conservation and management practices within the western U.S. 1A: Produce new approaches for and examples of data-driven ecological site description development using ground-based and remote-sensed data. 1B: Create and populate a national database of ecological dynamics to be used in guiding national ecological site description development. 2) Improve techniques, including remotely sensed methodologies, for rangeland monitoring and assessment applicable to landscapes within MLRAs. 2A: Develop and evaluate innovative approaches for remotely monitoring land surface conditions in order to improve existing and develop new methods. 2B: Develop innovative, integrated, and flexible inventory, assessment, and monitoring techniques and decision support tools. 3) Evaluate effectiveness of historic, current, and new grassland restoration practices for dominant ecological sites New Mexico. 3A: Design and implement new studies and analyze experimental data from conservation management practices and grazing management efforts on public and private lands in MLRA 41 & 42 of AZ & NM. 4) Evaluate livestock management practices suitable for conserving and restoring rangelands within selected MLRAs of the southwestern U.S. 4A: Evaluate grazing management practices and their relationships to ecological state changes. 4B: Evaluate new low-input livestock production strategies that apply to arid environments of the Southwest U.S. 5) Develop mechanistically based predictions of vegetation state changes and site based wind erosion susceptibilities for landscapes. 5A: Predict climate-driven vegetation state changes for western landscapes. 5B: Develop and implement a wind erosion monitoring network and standardize protocols for measurement and model-based predictions of changes in horizontal and vertical dust flux on western rangelands. 6) As part of the Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) Network, use the Jornada LTAR to improve observational capabilities and data accessibility of the LTAR network to support research to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality of the Rio Grande River Basin. 7) Develop science-based, region specific information and technologies for agricultural producers and natural resource managers that enable climate-smart decision-making.

We will build upon hundreds of existing data sets from our field station and collaborating sites. We will integrate short- and long-term data sets with simulation modeling, geographic information systems, and remote sensing tools. We will combine short-term experiments to test specific hypotheses with big data integration, models, and synthesis to develop new insights about agroecosystem functions. Decision-support tools resulting from this work are intended to meet the needs of public and private land managers, be adaptable across temporal and spatial scales, and be usable for assessing, monitoring, and implementing conservation practices. In implementing this research program, unit scientists will employ a scientific method that more effectively integrates data-intensive science to identify practices and solutions to specific problems. This work will contribute directly to the ARS Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research Network (LTAR), the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network of the National Science Foundation, the National Ecological Observation Network (NEON), all of which the Jornada hosts, and to nationally and globally accessible LTAR, LTER, NEON and other databases that are critical to finding solutions to key problems facing the conservation and management of rangelands in the western U.S. and worldwide. For objective 7, the SW Climate Hub will establish agreements with state extension and education entities across the six-state region. These agreements will develop and transfer climate-smart decision-making information, involving other USDA agencies, to producers and land managers in Hawaii, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.