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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #388445

Research Project: Restoration and Conservation of Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Ratcheting up resilience in the northern Great Basin

item JOHNSON, DUSTIN - Oregon State University
item Boyd, Chad
item O'Connor, Rory
item SMITH, DUSTIN - Bureau Of Land Management

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/21/2021
Publication Date: 1/7/2022
Citation: Johnson, D., Boyd, C.S., O'Connor, R.C., Smith, D. 2022. Ratcheting up resilience in the northern Great Basin. Rangelands. 44(3):200-209.

Interpretive Summary: Invasive annual grasses are expanding in the western rangelands of the United States. Understanding the abiotic and biotic properties that promote native bunchgrasses but limit invasive annual grasses is critical. During the High Desert Partnership/SageCon Partnership Invasive Annual Grass workshop we discussed how western rangelands need to be managed for resiliency of the naive plant communities. This resiliency stems from how we use the best science to inform restoration practices that translates to on the ground success. We discussed that the annual grass issue is not going to go away instantaneously, but if management and restoration can be flexible, focused and sustained for multiple years then resiliency of these ecosystems has a chance. This matters because this mentality of resilient ecosystems needs to be met with resilient, flexible restoration and land management.

Technical Abstract: Rangeland resilience is influenced by a variety of ecosystem properties that fall into two broad categories, 1) abiotic and 2) biotic. Although important to consider in land management planning, abiotic properties cannot be directly influenced with management, and largely represent the hand land managers are dealt. In contrast, biotic properties of the ecosystem can be readily influenced by management. The formula for robust biotic resilience to wildfire and resistance to invasive annual grasses in the northern Great Basin sagebrush ecosystem is largely about maintaining and promoting perennial bunchgrasses. Meeting these imperatives in a highly variable, invasive annual grass-prone environment modifies the very nature of the problem from seemingly simple, to one that is highly complex, particularly in areas where bunchgrasses are depauperate. Success in such an environment requires a process- rather than an event-based approach. The risk of invasive annual grasses is not going away anytime soon, and it is highly unlikely that a singular management treatment will be effective, so the problem should be managed as such. The management system itself also must possess properties of resilience if we hope to promote ecosystem resilience in an ever-changing risk, seedling recruitment, and recovery environment. A successful strategy for promoting ecosystem resilience will first require securing the necessary components of a resilient management system, and a shift in paradigm from random acts of opportunistic restoration to a sustained, organized, and regional process-based approach for promoting ecosystem resilience.