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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #443528

Research Project: Modeling and Synthesis Pastureland Ecological Vulnerability Index

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-21500-001-002-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Jul 17, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2025

ARS, University Park, PA, will lead the modeling and synthesis for the Pasture Ecological Vulnerability Index. Funds support field assessment of conservation practice application in pastures in both southern and northern regions of the United States to ensure that adequate data are available. The agreement produces the underlying datasets and modeling products required for implementation of the Pasture Ecological Vulnerability Index.

University Park, PA, will be responsible for conducting erosion modeling for creation of a pastureland Ecological Vulnerability Index (pEVI) outputs. Supporting CEAP-Grazing Lands modeling efforts and assessments, ARS will collaborate with NRCS to provide scientifically-rigorous datasets and research results to address data gaps in our understanding of the outcomes of conservation practices in grazing lands across the breadth of climates and soils where pasture-based grazing forms part of the agricultural system. This project will incorporate management dynamics, soil carbon, habitat, invasive species, erosion, nutrient transport, and other ecological considerations that change as pasture management and conservation implementation approaches change. University Park, PA, will lead the modeling and synthesis for the Pasture Ecological Vulnerability Index. Scientists and technicians at University Park will identify and harmonize datasets and conduct modeling in support of index development, and provide the tables and data needed to calculate the provisional index to NRCS for review. University Park will lead the ARS validation of the index using data collected through 2b and 2c, as well as existing data from multiple ARS research sites. Field research on regionally-specific conservation practices will result in datasets that support index development and validation. Collaborators at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI, will evaluate the impacts of conversion of low return-on-investment croplands to perennial cover, and rehabilitation of degraded pastures to conservation grazing systems. Resources will be used to assess changes in soil health and ecosystem services resulting from land cover and management transitions. ARS scientists at Tifton, GA, will expand research on the use and management of agricultural ponds in pasture lands, looking at associations between cattle use, sediment erosion and sediment delivery to ponds. Researchers will use remote sensing and on-site collection to quantify metrics including water quality, animal numbers, manure deposition, soil carbon, nutrients, heavy metals, and pathogens. These data improve understanding of conservation practice outcomes, and will lead to improved management practices and tools.