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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Weather-centric rangeland revegetation planning

Author
item Hardegree, Stuart
item Abatzoglou, John
item Brunson, Mark
item Germino, Matthew
item Hegewisch, Katherine
item Moffet, Corey
item Pilliod, David
item Roundy, Bruce
item Boehm, Alex
item Brabec, Martha
item Meredith, Gwendwr

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/14/2017
Publication Date: 8/7/2017
Citation: Hardegree, S.P., Abatzoglou, J., Brunson, M., Germino, M., Hegewisch, K., Moffet, C., Pilliod, D., Roundy, B., Boehm, A.R., Brabec, M., Meredith, G. 2017. Weather-centric rangeland revegetation planning. Rangeland Ecology and Management. doi: 10.1016/j.rama.2017.07.003.

Interpretive Summary: Millions of acres of rangeland in the Intermountain western US have been invaded by introduced annual weeds that proliferate after wildfire. A principal barrier to restoration of these lands is the high variability in precipitation and temperature that interferes with successful seedling establishment in most years. Future success of restoration is going to require managers to both understand and anticipate weather effects on plant establishment, survival and growth. We report on the state of knowledge of weather, climate and micro-climatic impacts on plant establishment, and available weather-data and forecasting tools that could be used to increase the efficiency of current rangeland restoration practices. Adoption of a weather-centric approach can greatly assist in the development of long-term adaptive management plans for rangeland restoration, and could greatly increase the probability of successful seedling establishment by targeting restoration practices to years with an above average chance of favorable weather. Adoption of weather-centric restoration tools, however, will require significant changes to the logistics of current Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation efforts, and longer-term strategies for establishing resilient and weed-resistant plant communities in the western US.

Technical Abstract: Semiarid rangelands in the western United States have been or are being invaded by introduced annual weeds that negatively impact ecosystem services and pose a major conservation threat. Rehabilitation and restoration of these rangelands are challenging due to inter-annual climate and sub-seasonal weather variability that impacts germination of seeded species, survival and establishment of seedlings, annual weed dynamics, wildfire frequency, and soil stability. The revegetation toolbox can be greatly enhanced by adopting a weather-centric approach that utilizes the full spectrum of available site-specific weather information from historical observations, seasonal climate forecasts and climate-change projections. Historical climate data can be used retrospectively to interpret success or failure of past seedings by describing seasonal and longer-term patterns of environmental variability subsequent to planting. A more detailed evaluation of annual and seasonal weather impacts on site conditions may also yield more flexible adaptive-management strategies for rangeland restoration and estimates of transition probabilities between desirable and undesirable vegetation states. Skillful seasonal climate forecasts could significantly alter the logistics of rangeland restoration planning, and greatly improve both the success rate and cost efficiency of management treatments. Climate-change projections are key to the application of current environmental models for development of mitigation and adaptation strategies for the future. Adoption of new weather technology will require significant collaboration with land managers and revegetation specialists and major modifications to the way we currently plan and conduct rangeland rehabilitation and restoration in the Intermountain West.

Last Modified: 09/24/2017
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