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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357220

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

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Iterative-adaptive management and contingency-based restoration planning in a variable environment

Author
item Hardegree, Stuart
item Sheley, Roger
item BRUNSON, MARK - Utah State University
item TAYLOR, MICHAEL - University Of Nevada
item Moffet, Corey

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/29/2018
Publication Date: 3/1/2019
Citation: Hardegree, S.P., Sheley, R.A., Brunson, M.W., Taylor, M.H., Moffet, C.A. 2019. Iterative-adaptive management and contingency-based restoration planning in a variable environment. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 72(2):217-224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2018.09.006.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2018.09.006

Interpretive Summary: Annual grass invasion is a major cause of ecological degradation in the Great Basin sagebrush steppe. Restoration and rehabilitation of these rangelands is often unsuccessful due to the low probability of favorable weather conditions for seedling establishment in any single year. We suggest that successful restoration outcomes in these systems requires iterative management that can take advantage of partial success in any given management year, and that can maintain an overall trajectory toward an acceptable goal state in the long-term. This may require a fundamental shift in the way that we manage rangeland restoration projects to include opportunities for multi-year management; flexibility in management options in any given year; a planning environment that allows for rapid assessment and contingency planning; and new methodologies to establish desirable plant species without damaging previously established vegetation. New management paradigms are required to reverse the overall trend toward type conversion from native sagebrush/bunchgrass plant communities to those dominated by introduced annual weeds.

Technical Abstract: Millions of hectares of sagebrush/bunchgrass rangeland in the western US are undergoing type conversion to systems dominated by introduced annual grasses that proliferate after wildfire. Post-fire rehabilitation and restoration is problematic in these systems that are characterized by high annual and seasonal variability in precipitation, and persistent drought. Successful restoration of compositional, structural and functional diversity may require relatively long-term, iterative management that acknowledges or incorporates: • Flexibility in the definition of the aspirational/goal state • Lack of predictability of individual-year management results • An expectation of only partial success of individual-year management treatments • A planning environment that allows for rapid assessment and contingency planning for individual-year management treatments • The need for long-term persistence to overcome expected failures and setbacks • New methodologies for establishment of desirable species without damaging previously established vegetation. • New metrics for monitoring successional trajectories relative to initial and goal states.