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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #342728

Title: Soil health as a transformational change agent for U.S. grazing lands management

item Derner, Justin
item SMART, ALEXANDER - South Dakota State University
item TOOMBS, THEODORE - Environmental Defense
item LARSEN, DANA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item MCCULLEY, REBECCA - University Of Kentucky
item GOODWIN, JEFF - Noble Research Institute
item SIMS, SCOTT - Producer
item ROCHE, LESLIE - University Of California

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/30/2019
Publication Date: 6/1/2018
Citation: Derner, J.D., Smart, A., Toombs, T.P., Larsen, D., McCulley, R., Goodwin, J., Sims, S., Roche, L.M. 2018. Soil health as a transformational change agent for U.S. grazing lands management. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 1(4):403-408.

Interpretive Summary: Soil health provides an opportunity to integrate science and management, researchers and producers and land managers with the general public regarding grazing management on the production of food and fiber, as well as providing a suite of other goods and services from grazinglands. Emphasis on soil health can assist in refocusing grazing management on ecological processes, assisting adaptive decision-making through use of specific objectives and targeted monitoring of key attributes, showcasing the connections of ecology, economics and human dimensions for integrated management strategies, fostering partnerships among different institutions, and providing a platform for a cross-region living laboratory network for case studies and increased contributions of citizen science that will facilitate local, regional and national level assessments of grazing land management.

Technical Abstract: Grazing lands (pastures and rangelands) provide an extensive suite of ecosystem goods and services for society. A shift in focus towards soil health can foster transformational changes for grazing management as well as provide a nexus for enhanced communication among producers, customers, and the general public regarding the sustainable provision of these ecosystem goods and services. Soil health offers an opportunity to attract and recruit persons with diverse backgrounds from new, innovative and integrative, skills-based curricula. We argue the current soil health renaissance is an opportunity to forward science-based management for improving grazing lands resilience to environmental change via 1) refocusing grazing management on fundamental ecological processes (water and nutrient cycling, and energy flow), 2) emphasizing goal-based management with adaptive decision-making informed by specific objectives and directly relevant monitoring attributes; 3) advancing holistic and integrated approaches that highlight social-ecological-economic interdependencies of these systems, with particular emphasis on human dimensions; 4) building cross-institutional partnerships on grazing lands soil health to enhance technical capacities of students, land managers and natural resource professionals; and 5) creating a cross-region, living laboratory network of grazing land soil health management case studies. The traditional, one-way technology transfer to more collaborative frameworks of multi-directional knowledge exchange and the rise of participatory and stakeholder-engaged research approaches better align research with on-the-ground management challenges of producers. The development of a soil health “living laboratory” network of case studies from producers engaged in conservation programs on grazing lands provides the template to increase contributions of citizen science, integrate management and science, and provide local, regional and national assessments of grazing lands management for greater relevance to society regarding outcomes and policy impacts.