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Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONSERVATION OF WESTERN RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Vulnerabilities of southwestern U.S. rangeland-based animal agriculture to climate change

Author
item Havstad, Kris
item Brown, Joel - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item Elias, Emile
item Rango, Albert - Al
item Steele, Caiti - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Climatic Change
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/6/2016
Publication Date: 6/1/2018
Citation: Havstad, K.M., Brown, J.R., Estell, R.E., Elias, E.H., Rango, A., Steele, C. 2018. Vulnerabilities of southwestern U.S. rangeland-based animal agriculture to climate change . Climatic Change. 148:371-386. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1834-7.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1834-7

Interpretive Summary: Animal agriculture in the southwest is inherently resilient, and has the capacity for ranchers to adapt and adjust as needed to the climatic changes that are now occurring and will continue to occur across the 5 state southwest region of the U.S. In the late 16th Century European settlers crossed the Rio Grande into present day west Texas and southern New Mexico with herds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses. Over the past 4 Centuries, the rangeland livestock industry has developed management strategies and conservation practices that impart resilience to the climatic extremes, especially prolonged droughts, that are common in the southwest. The management practices that have proven successful in the past will be increasingly important in the coming decades. These include: reduced stocking rates, proper grazing management practices, employing animal genetics suited to arid environments with less herbaceous production, erosion control conservation practices, and alternative forage supplies, in an increasingly arid and variable climatic environment. However, producers and land managers will need to thoroughly understand the likely vulnerabilities and sensitivities that face them resulting from the emerging climatic changes across the southwest region. This understanding will be useful in choosing adaptive management practices that will maintain rangeland livestock production capacities across this southwest region.

Technical Abstract: The Southwestern US is a 5-state region that has supported animal agriculture since the late 16th Century when European settlers crossed the Rio Grande into present day west Texas and southern New Mexico with herds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses. For the past 400 years the rangeland livestock industry, in its many forms and manifestations, has developed management strategies and conservation practices that impart resilience to the climatic extremes, especially prolonged droughts, that are common and extensive across this region. Livestock production from rangelands in the southwest is adapted to drought and high ambient temperatures, but will have to continue to adapt management strategies, such as reduced stocking rates, proper grazing management practices, employing animal genetics suited to arid environments with less herbaceous production, erosion control conservation practices, and alternative forage supplies, in an increasingly arid and variable climatic environment. Even though the aging demographics of western ranchers could be a deterrent to implementing various adaptations, there are examples of creative management coalitions to cope with climatic change that are emerging in the southwest that can serve as instructive examples. More importantly, there are additional opportunities for incorporation of transformative practices and technologies that can sustain animal agriculture in the SW in a warmer environment. Animal agriculture in the southwest is inherently resilient, and has the capacity to adapt and transform as needed to the climatic changes that are now occurring and will continue to occur across this region. However, producers and land managers will need to thoroughly understand the vulnerabilities and sensitivities that face them resulting from the emerging climatic changes across the southwest region.