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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #392145

Research Project: Adaptive Grazing Management and Decision Support to Enhance Ecosystem Services in the Western Great Plains

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: Balancing ecosystem service outcomes at the ranch-scale in shortgrass steppe: The role of grazing management

item Raynor, Edward
item Derner, Justin
item Augustine, David
item JABLONSKI, KEVIN - Colorado State University
item Porensky, Lauren
item RITTEN, JOHN - University Of Wyoming
item Hoover, David
item ELLIOT, JULIE - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/26/2022
Publication Date: 10/1/2022
Citation: Raynor, E.J., Derner, J.D., Augustine, D.J., Jablonski, K.E., Porensky, L.M., Ritten, J., Hoover, D.L., Elliot, J. 2022. Balancing ecosystem service outcomes at the ranch-scale in shortgrass steppe: The role of grazing management. Rangelands. 44(6):391-397.

Interpretive Summary: We synthesize prior and current research in shortgrass steppe assessing grazing management strategies to determine their role in balancing ecosystem service outcomes at the ranch-scale. Our focus is on services of livestock production, reduction of drought risk, and breeding habitat for grassland bird species of concern. Maintaining livestock production while simultaneously reducing drought risk and providing habitat for multiple grassland bird species of concern at the ranch-scale in the shortgrass steppe is possible. How this is accomplished by managers will not depend on identifying the single ‘best’ grazing management strategy. Rather, incorporating flexibility through a blended approach of ‘mix-and-match’ grazing management strategies that accounts for spatial variation in soils and ecological sites, along with temporal variation in precipitation, provides opportunities to achieve balanced ecosystem service outcomes in both normal and drought years.

Technical Abstract: Grazing management for providing multiple ecosystem services at the ranch scale requires balancing desired outcomes. Abundant challenges involve matching the spatial heterogeneity in soils and associated plant community characteristics with the temporal variability in precipitation. Prescriptive grazing (season-long continuous and time-controlled rotational grazing) removes the human experiential knowledge to adapt to changing conditions whereas adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing often invokes high stock densities which reduce livestock weight gain. A “mix-and-match” or blended approach for grazing management in the shortgrass steppe can result in reduced drought risk, enhanced breeding habitat availability for grassland bird species of concern, and sustained livestock production.