Submitted to: United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2010
Publication Date: 2/2/2011
Citation: George, M.R., Jackson, R.D., Boyd, C.S., Tate, K.W. 2011. A scientific assessment of the effectiveness of riparian management practices. In: Briske, D.D., editor. Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. p. 213-252. Interpretive Summary: The dynamic nature of rangeland riparian areas makes it difficult to generalize the effects of management practices between systems and over time. We evaluated the validity of presumed benefits of a series of riparian management practices by creating and “testing” a series of hypotheses using research results found in published peer review literature. In many cases the peer reviewed literature was insufficient to adequately evaluate practice efficacy, however, we did find evidence to support some riparian management practices that relate to livestock grazing intensity and season of use, and the resultant benefits with respect to plant community integrity, attenuation of waterborne pollutants, and quality of wildlife habitat. Our findings serve as a baseline for defining current knowledge of the effectiveness of riparian management practices, while reinforcing the notion that riparian systems are individualistic and will require some form of adaptive management to realize full benefit from any management strategy.
Technical Abstract: The CEAP Riparian Team reviewed the influence of riparian management practices (RMP) on vegetation, soils and ecosystem services. We developed a conceptual model that links management practices to riparian vegetation and soil attributes and then links these attributes to ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, clean water and carbon sequestration. The model acknowledges the dependence of these linkages on state factors such as climate and geomorphology, but focuses on how management and resource availability in riparian systems interact to determine ecosystem services. From this model, we generated hypotheses for evaluation using peer reviewed literature. We placed the hypotheses into three groups: 1) RMP that protect or restore vegetation attributes, 2) RMP that protect or restore soil attributes, and 3) RMP that protect or enhance ecosystem services. Our ability to evaluate hypotheses was limited by site-specific results that were conditioned by resource availability and studies of management effects on ecosystem services that ignore underlying ecological processes supporting those services. As a result, it is difficult to generalize about relationships between management practices and anticipated benefits. However, we were able to find support for conservation practices that influence 1) livestock distribution, 2) riparian herbaceous and woody vegetation attributes such as cover, structure, and diversity, 3) soil compaction and bank stability, 4) water quality, 5) the abundance and diversity of riparian obligate wildlife and 6) carbon sequestration inferred from vegetation productivity.