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Research Project: Sustainable Agricultural Systems for the Northern Great Plains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: Hold your ground: Threats to soil function in Northern Great Plains grazing lands

Author
item Liebig, Mark
item Toledo, David

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2018
Publication Date: 2/1/2019
Citation: Liebig, M.A., Toledo, D.N. 2019. Hold your ground: Threats to soil function in Northern Great Plains grazing lands. Rangelands. V. 41(1): P. 17-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rala.2018.11.003.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rala.2018.11.003

Interpretive Summary: Many soils throughout the northern Great Plains of North America possess attributes that support the successful delivery of multiple ecosystem services from grazing lands. Anticipated changes in climate and land use in the region, however, suggest delivery of these services could be compromised in the future due to an increase in threats to soil function. These threats include soil organic matter decline, reduced physical stability, soil erosion, compaction, localized nutrient accumulation, acidification, and salinization. Interventions to conserve existing soil functions in NGP northern Great Plains grazing lands are necessary, and include: 1) conservative management of forage resources, 2) strategic application of management to modify vegetation composition or soil conditions, and – should grazing lands be converted to use for energy extraction or crop production – 3) judicious use of restoration and conservation practices known to maintain vegetation cover and protect soil. Management interventions to conserve soil functions in northern Great Plains grazing lands will require considerable management flexibility by land managers. Successful application of interventions will require timely information about soil and vegetation conditions to guide management decisions.

Technical Abstract: Many soils throughout the northern Great Plains of North America possess attributes that support the successful delivery of multiple ecosystem services from grazing lands. Anticipated changes in climate and land use in the region, however, suggest delivery of these services could be compromised in the future due to an increase in threats to soil function. These threats include soil organic matter decline, reduced physical stability, soil erosion, compaction, localized nutrient accumulation, acidification, and salinization. Interventions to conserve existing soil functions in NGP northern Great Plains grazing lands are necessary, and include: 1) conservative management of forage resources, 2) strategic application of management to modify vegetation composition or soil conditions, and – should grazing lands be converted to use for energy extraction or crop production – 3) judicious use of restoration and conservation practices known to maintain vegetation cover and protect soil. Management interventions to conserve soil functions in northern Great Plains grazing lands will require considerable management flexibility by land managers. Successful application of interventions will require timely information about soil and vegetation conditions to guide management decisions.