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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368439

Research Project: Assessment and Mitigation of Disturbed Sagebrush-Steppe Ecosystems

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Chapter R. Restoration. In: Sagebrush conservation strategy: Challenges to sagebrush conservation

item GERMINO, MATTHEW - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item BRUNSON, MARK - Utah State University
item CHAMBERS, JEANNE - Us Forest Service (FS)
item EPANCHINJ-NIELL, REBECCA - Resources For The Future
item FULLER, GARTH - The Nature Conservancy
item HANSER, STEVE - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item Hardegree, Stuart
item JOHNSON, TRACEY - University Of Idaho
item Newingham, Beth
item PELLANT, MICHAEL - Bureau Of Land Management
item SHERIDAN, CHRIS - Bureau Of Land Management
item TULL, JOHN - Us Fish And Wildlife Service

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/11/2021
Publication Date: 3/11/2021
Citation: Germino, M., Brunson, M., Chambers, J., Epanchinj-Niell, R., Fuller, G., Hanser, S., Hardegree, S.P., Johnson, T., Newingham, B.A., Pellant, M., Sheridan, C., Tull, J. 2021. Chapter R. Restoration. In: Remington, T.E., Deibert, P.A., Hanser, S.E., Davis, D.M., Robb, L.A., and Welty, J.L., editors. Sagebrush conservation strategy: Challenges to sagebrush conservation. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Geological Survey. p. 203-221.

Interpretive Summary: Millions of acres of rangeland in sagebrush ecosystems have been degraded by wildfire, invasive plants and inappropriate management activities. Although revegetation, rehabilitation, and restoration treatments have been extensively applied in this region, their general success has been unacceptably low due to recurrent wildfire, invasive species and inadequate management. This chapter outlines current strategies for prioritization of restoration projects, the development of project-scale restoration objectives, project implementation requirements, weather and grazing effects, and tools for implementation of restoration projects. Described tools include targeted grazing, mowing, herbicide use, seeding and transplanting. Also discussed are the contextual framework for making restoration decisions in the sagebrush ecoregion, and social and economic costs and opportunities. There are clear opportunities to improve restoration success in this region by incorporating site prioritization, adaptive management and adaptive learning, stakeholder involvement, and repeated interventions over longer time periods.

Technical Abstract: Vast expanses of the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem have been degraded due to disturbances, including plant invasions, wildfire, and improper grazing, necessitating restoration efforts to maintain wildlife habitats, reduce future wildfire risks, and recover ecosystem services. Restoration treatments, such as conifer removal, seeding, and herbicide applications, have been extensively applied. However, treatment success has been mixed, and many other acres are degraded or are at risk but have not been treated. A primary objective of restoration in sagebrush communities is to maintain or increase desirable perennials, such as sagebrush and forbs, that are key to wildlife, along with perennial grasses that provide resistance to invasion and resilience to future disturbance. This objective is challenging due to variable environmental conditions, including frequent drought, exotic plant invasions, recurrent wildfire, and inadequate post-fire grazing management. Additional challenges include the large extent of areas that need treatments, lack of basic site information, and logistical challenges to treatment application. Moreover, restoration efforts have typically been short-term, single applications. Restoration planning now emphasizes prioritizing areas that need intervention and are likely to have a positive response to intervention. Treatment success is likely to improve in the future given prioritization of sites, adaptive management approaches that incorporate learning, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders that allows for repeated interventions over longer time periods. While current research is improving the understanding of factors affecting restoration success and restoration techniques, there are clear opportunities to better incorporate current knowledge into restoration practice.