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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Research Project #445713

Research Project: Sagebrush Rangeland Conservation and Restoration

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Project Number: 2070-21500-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 26, 2024
End Date: Feb 25, 2029

The long-term objective of this project is to develop practices and strategies to restore and conserve Great Basin rangelands. Specifically, during the next five years, we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1: Develop practices and strategies for restoring ecosystem goods and services on degraded and fire-prone rangelands using combinations of grazing management, vegetation treatments, seed enhancements, and traditional restoration techniques. (NP215 C4, PS4B PS4C) Sub-objective 1.A: Develop seed enhancement technologies for overcoming barriers to rangeland seeding success. Sub-objective 1.B: Improve strategies to establish perennial vegetation in invaded and degraded rangelands. Sub-objective 1.C: Develop restoration approaches targeting high weather and environmental variability typical of semiarid systems. Sub-objective 1.D: Quantify and evaluate long-term vegetation response to western juniper control treatments (fire, mechanical) in the northern Great Basin to enhance livestock forage production and other ecosystem services. Objective 2: Develop management practices and strategies to maintain ecosystem goods and services across different sites, climatic conditions, and management systems on rangelands. (NP215 C4, PS4A PS4B PS4C) Sub-objective 2.A: Evaluate the use of precision agriculture technologies for rangeland fuels management and for controlling the distribution of livestock. Sub-objective 2.B: Determine grazing management strategies to decrease invasive plants and reduce wildfire risk, behavior, and severity. Sub-objective 2.C: Determine the influence of site attributes and climate variation on spatial and temporal variability in the productivity and diversity of sagebrush rangelands. Sub-objective 2.D: Develop protocols and methods for sampling rangeland carbon that can be implemented by land management agencies for assessing and monitoring sagebrush rangeland carbon. Sub-objective 2.E: Develop a Carbon Security Index (CSI) that incorporates spatial and temporal variability as well as site resiliency across sagebrush rangelands using remotely sensed vegetation and wildfire data. Sub-objective 2.F: Scale up fuels monitoring by linking community-based field data with remote sensing datasets.

Objective 1: Hypotheses: 1) Activated carbon seed technologies (seed pellets) will protect seeded plants from soil active herbicides, 2) Seeds treated with physical coatings will have delayed germination and increased seedling density relative to non-coated seeds, 3) The effect of physical seed coatings on germination delay will depend on coating thickness, 4) A seed mix with non-native perennial grasses will be more successful in enhancing sagebrush understories in invaded hotspot areas compared to a native only mix due to competition with invasive species. However, the degree of benefit will depend upon the initial abundance of seeded (desirable species) and invasive species, 5) Seeding with herbicide will be more successful than herbicide alone in enhancing understories in degraded sites, with greater positive effects of seeding with lower initial perennial abundance, 6) Applying indaziflam and indaziflam with imazapic to annual grass-invaded plant communities with residual perennial vegetation will shift competitive relationships to favor perennial vegetation, 7) Species with faster germination and growth at lower temperatures and/or non-dormant seeds will be relatively more likely to establish with spring drought, whereas species with slower germination and growth at low temperatures will be more successful in control plots, 9) Herbaceous vegetation will be greater and shrubs will be less in fall-burned juniper woodlands compared to winter slash-burned and control treatments, 9) Herbaceous and shrub vegetation will be greater in treated versus untreated woodlands and in interspace than slash and canopy microsites, and 10) Native herbaceous and shrub vegetation will be greater and non-native weedy vegetation less in burned early to mid-succession than burned late succession juniper. Objective 2: Hypotheses: 1) Moderate deferred grazing treatments will decrease fire probability, but not negatively impact plant community composition, 2) Moderate off-season (fall and winter) grazing compared to not grazing will reduce fine fuel continuity, height, and total biomass, and 3) Moderate off-season (fall and winter) grazing compared to not grazing will decrease invasive annual grass abundance and increase perennial bunchgrass abundance. Experimental approach and research procedures: We will use a combination of grow room studies, small and large replicated field studies, and case studies to answer these research questions. Many of these field studies will be long-term studies. If initial research plans are unsuccessful, we will revise our grow room and field studies to address the reasons our initial research plan was unsuccessful. In the event our research was unsuccessful because of an act of nature, we will replicate the original experiment in subsequent years.