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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Research Project #435061

Research Project: Livestock Ranching, Rangelands, and Resilience: Ensuring Adaptive Capacity in an Increasingly Variable Climate

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Project Number: 3012-21610-003-023-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: May 1, 2018
End Date: Apr 30, 2023

a) Participation in the vegetation and livestock production modeling, in close collaboration with CU, USU, and UA. This activity will have several components, such as i) providing long-term field data for model parameterization and validation, ii) providing guidance in terms of functional group classification and vegetation strategies, iii) assessing the applicability of model results based on field experience and expertise, and iv) input of developing future alternative scenarios for the region. b) Participation in the co-development process to improve and integrate model results with livestock production decision making. This activity will have several components, such as i) identifying stakeholders to serve on an advisory committee, ii) recruiting ranchers and public land owners to participate in co-development process, iii) facilitating the codevelopment activities, such as questionnaire follow-ups, participation in workshops, alternative scenario development, and evaluation, and iv) assist with the logistics and operation of the workshops, including lodging, meals, reimbursements and preparation of workshop materials. c) Participation in the integration of project activates across collaborative groups, by i) attending in project group meetings in yrs 1 and 3, and ii) assisting in the development of research publications and extension materials.

We use a comparative framework that breaks down vulnerabilities into different components of the rangeland system. Our approach combines climate modeling and assessment with forage and livestock production models in a co-development framework to build scenarios and assess feasible and effective adaptation strategies. We have three specific objectives: 1) EXPOSURE. Determine climate exposure in different rangeland regions within the Western U.S., and project their exposure in the future. We expect that climate variability differs across rangeland regions, and climate variability is increasing over time (due to climate change) more in some regions than others. 2) SENSITIVITY. Determine sensitivity in three components of the rangeland system (forage production, livestock production, human livelihood), and how these may be subject to nonlinearity and tipping points. For instance, work has demonstrated considerable variation in the sensitivity of forage production across rangelands: in some rangelands, the response functions are steep, implying high sensitivity, while in other rangelands the response functions are not even explanatory, indicating little sensitivity. Much less work has focused on the response of livestock production to climate variation and even less on the human response related to ranch livelihood and land use. 3) ADAPTIVE CAPACITY. Evaluate how different adaptive strategies may be effective given regional exposures and sensitivities. We expect that tipping points will occur where increased variability moves the system into situations where their current strategy (e.g. adaptive tracking, bet-hedging, plasticity) is no longer appropriate and a change in strategy is needed.