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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Research Project #439636

Research Project: Evaluating Adaptive Management Strategies for Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs In The Context of Plague, Climate, and Livestock Forage Production

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Project Number: 3012-21500-001-007-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2020
End Date: May 14, 2024

Contemporary management needs to find solutions to address prairie dog management that considers the interacting social and environmental factors that influence where and how prairie dog complexes can be conserved, controlled, and managed to support grassland species, grassland health, and livestock production. Our overarching objective is to investigate how ecological, social, and climate variables drive prairie dog population dynamics over time and space, and use this information to develop a predictive model and decision support tool that will inform best practices for rangeland management to promote livestock production and grassland conservation.

Leveraging extensive existing data sets from the Central Plains Experimental Range (CO) and the Thunder Basin National Grassland (WY), we will harness the power of machine-learning and model-based inference methods to infer functional linkages among multiple key components of our focal rangeland ecosystems. We will then assemble and parameterize a rangeland ecosystem model that quantifies how ecological, social, and climate factors interactively drive prairie dog population dynamics over time and space, and how prairie dog boom-bust cycles consequently affect key grassland ecosystem services. Using this parameterized ecosystem model, we will simulate the cascading effects of alternative management strategies on three critical ecosystem services: biodiversity, soil health, and livestock production.