Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #297243

Research Project: Development of a Decision-support System for the Ecologically-based Management of Cheatgrass- and Medusahead-infested Rangeland

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Predicting foundation bunchgrass species abundances: model-assisted decision-making in protected-area sagebrush steppe

Author
item Rodhouse, Thomas - National Park Service
item Irvine, Kathryn - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item Sheley, Roger
item Smith, Brenda
item Hoh, Shirley - National Park Service
item Esposito, Dan - Oregon State University
item Mata-gonzalez, Ricardo - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Ecosphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/16/2014
Publication Date: 9/24/2014
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/59746
Citation: Rodhouse, T.J., Irvine, K.M., Sheley, R.L., Smith, B.S., Hoh, S., Esposito, D., Mata-Gonzalez, R. 2014. Predicting foundation bunchgrass species abundances: model-assisted decision-making in protected-area sagebrush steppe. Ecosphere. 5(9):1-16.

Interpretive Summary: We developed predictive models and maps of a foundation bunchgrass species’ abundance to guide implementation of a management decision-support tool across degraded protected-area steppe. Models indicated that steep north-facing slopes in higher and more remote portions of the landscape outside of recently burned areas where invasive annual grasses were less abundant were most likely to support remnant bunchgrass stands. Our foundation species focus facilitated communication among a wide range of stakeholders, bridging the gap between monitoring and management decision-making across protected-area landscapes. Although the ultimate success of the process – improved management through landscape prioritization and restoration outcomes – will take time to materialize, we have set in motion adaptive management by linking monitoring to biogeographic models and a decision-support framework.

Technical Abstract: Foundation species are structurally dominant members of ecological communities that can stabilize ecological processes and influence ecosystem resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasion. Being common, they are often overlooked as targets for conservation but are increasingly threatened from land use change, biological invasions, and over-exploitation. The pattern of foundation species distributions and abundances over space and time may be used to guide management decision-making, particularly in protected areas for which they are iconic. We developed predictive models and maps of a foundation bunchgrass species’ abundance to guide implementation of a management decision-support tool across degraded protected-area steppe. Models indicated that steep north-facing slopes in higher and more remote portions of the landscape outside of recently burned areas where invasive annual grasses were less abundant were most likely to support remnant bunchgrass stands. These areas represented only 25% of the landscape and were prioritized for weed and conifer encroachment prevention. Most of the remaining area was mapped as heavily infested and given low priority for active management due to the high costs and low probability of success associated with such areas. Some accessible oldfields and flat alluvial terraces were identified for restoration.