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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #410240

Research Project: Improved Plant Genetic Resources and Methodologies for Rangelands, Pastures, and Turf Landscapes in the Semiarid Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Restoring and rewilding grasslands and rangelands

item Jones, Thomas

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2024
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Grasslands and rangelands are largely misunderstood by the public and scientific community, and the ecosystem services they provide, e.g., carbon sequestration and biodiversity, are underappreciated. Often ignored by conservationists and subjected to land-use changes, such lands are often in great need of restoration. Prescribed burning and smoke-induced germination may be useful in fire-adapted ecosystems, as are seed-enhancement technologies where rangeland establishment is problematic. Research may characterize rangeland plant materials for establishment and persistence. Native plants are preferred for restoration, but to provide desired ecosystem properties, use of non-invasive exotic species may be necessary in exceptional cases, i.e., rehabilitation. A greater awareness of grassland and rangeland restoration successes around the world, as described in this book chapter, will lead to improved restoration practice and better-quality results.

Technical Abstract: Natural and semi-natural grasslands and rangelands are disturbance-driven ecosystems covering 40% of the Earth’s land area. While grassland vegetation dynamics typically follows Clementsian succession, the dynamics of rangeland vegetation operate under ‘state-and-transition models.’ Grasslands have often been subjected to agricultural improvement, e.g., vegetation or nutrient (N, P) addition, resulting in compromised biodiversity. However, if the seed bank is still intact, i.e., degradation is still in its early stages, or nearby ecologically intact areas can disperse seed onto the restoration site, rewilding (passive restoration) may be able to restore biodiversity. Otherwise, active restoration may be required, involving the application of ‘green hay’ or seeding with wildland-harvested or commercial sources of seed. Seeding success is nearly always greater for grasses than with forbs, which are potentially greater contributors to species richness. Invasive species can often be controlled by herbicides, mowing, or woody-plant suppression, but often they cannot be eradicated.