Landscape Analysis

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Evaluating establishment of conservation practices in the Conservation Reserve Program

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Across practice types, ≥99% of fields had no evidence of rills, gullies, or pedestaling from erosion, and 91% of fields had <20% bare soil cover, with region being the strongest predictor of bare soil cover. Seventy-nine percent of fields had ≥50% grass cover, with cover differing by practice type and region. Native grass species were present on more fields in wildlife and wetland practices compared to grassland practices. Forb cover >50% and native forb presence occurred most frequently in wildlife practices, with region being the strongest driver of differences. Federally listed noxious grass and forb species occurred on 23% and 61% of fields, respectively, but tended to constitute a small portion of cover in the field. Estimates from edge-of-field surveys and in-field validation sampling were strongly correlated, demonstrating the utility of the edge-of-field surveys. Our results provide the first national-level assessment of CRP establishment in three decades, confirming that enrolled wildlife and wetland practices often have diverse perennial vegetation cover and very few erosional features.

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Rangeland Viewer

Access the MRLC Rangeland Viewer.

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Vegetation dynamics models for natural resource assessment and planning

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This paper describes the ongoing development of a comprehensive set of vegetation reference conditions based on over 900 quantitative vegetation dynamic models and accompanying description documents for terrestrial ecosystems in the USA. These models and description documents, collaboratively developed by more than 800 experts around the country through the interagency LANDFIRE Program, synthesize fundamental ecological information about ecosystem dynamics, structure, composition, and disturbance regimes before European-American settlement. These products establish the first comprehensive national baseline for measuring vegetation change in the USA, providing land managers and policymakers with a tool to support vegetation restoration and fuel management activities at regional to national scales. Users have applied these products to support a variety of land management needs including exploring ecosystem dynamics, assessing current and desired conditions, and simulating the effects of management actions. In an era of rapid ecological change, these products provide land managers with an adaptable tool for understanding ecosystems and predicting possible future conditions.

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State-and-transition-simulation-modeling in real-life: A 3-part miniseries

This 3-part modeling miniseries takes a wide-ranging look at State-and-Transition-Simulation-Models (STSMs) and use the LANDFIRE BpS models as a launching point for inquiry about ecosystem change over time. It communicates practical ways to use STSM in real-life research, management and academia.

Part 1 Recording: Kori Blankenship (LANDFIRE Fire Ecologist) will discuss the basics of (STSMs), introduce the LANDFIRE BpS models and share resources for both novice and intermediate state-and-transition modelers.

Part 2 Recording: Leonardo Frid (Systems Ecologist at Apex Resource Management Solutions) will showcase real-life STSM applications with the ST-Sim package for SyncroSim, demonstrate how to use both the Graphical User Interface and rsyncrosim R package and discuss different approaches for applying state and transition modeling tools in real-life management scenarios.

Part 3 Recording: Randy Swaty (LANDFIRE Ecologist) & Dr. Priscilla Nyamai (Asst. Professor, Grand Valley State Univ.) will discuss how integrating STSMs in the classroom can be useful for conceptualizing ecosystem changes.

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Functional connectivity in continuously distributed, mule deer as revealed by landscape genomics

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Overall, findings highlight the role of different seasonal ranges on mule deer genetic connectivity, and show that anthropogenic features hinder connectivity. This study demonstrates the value of combining a large, genome-wide marker set with recent advances in landscape genomics to evaluate functional connectivity in a wide-ranging migratory species.

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Prioritizing landscapes for grassland bird conservation with hierarchical community models

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Cumulative overlap of species distributions revealed areas with greater potential community response to management. Within each species’ potential regional-level distribution, the grassland bird community generally responded negatively to cropland cover and vegetation productivity at local scales (up to 10 km of survey sites). Multiple species declined with increasing bare ground and litter cover, shrub cover, and grass height measured within sites.

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Sharing the road: Managers and scientists transforming fire management

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The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture have long-term goals to reintroduce fire into U.S. ecosystems at ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. Building on decades of collaborative work, a Master Participating Agreement was signed in March 2017 to increase overall fire management capacity through training and education. In October 2017, The Nature Conservancy hosted a cross-boundary fire training, education, research, and restoration-related event for 2 weeks at Sycan Marsh Preserve in Oregon. Eighty people from 15 organizations applied prescribed fire on over 1,200 acres (490 ha). Managers and scientists participated
in the applied learning and training exercise. The exercise was a success; operational and research objectives were met, as indicated by multiagency, multidisciplinary fire research, and effectiveness monitoring. This paper describes a paradigm shift of fire-adapted, cross-boundary, multiagency landscape-scale restoration. Participants integrated adaptive management and translational ecology so that applied controlled burning incorporated
the most up-to-date scientifically informed management decisions. Scientists worked with practitioners to advance their understanding of the challenges being addressed by managers. The model program has stimulated an exponential increase in landscape scale and ecologically relevant dry forest restoration in eastern Oregon. Collaboration between managers and scientists is foundational in the long-term success of fire-adapted restoration.  Examples of effects of prescribed fire on ecosystem services in the project area, such as increased resilience of trees in drought years, are also provided.

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Rangeland Analysis Platform: Integrating production and economics into area-wide planning

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Description: Rangelands produce ecosystem services that not only support biodiversity and wildlife, but also sustain livestock operations and rural economies. Woody encroachment is a threat to rangeland productivity, but its impact is often overlooked due to its slow pace and the positive public perception of trees. The Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) is an innovative online tool that combines current and historical satellite imagery with thousands of on-the-ground vegetation measurements to facilitate an exploration of trends in western vegetation over time. Using RAP’s recently developed remotely sensed products of rangeland production, we quantify the amount of forage lost to woody encroachment across western rangelands over the past three decades. Translating these losses into dollars, we demonstrate how this knowledge can be integrated into area-wide planning to stop further economic loss and prevent wholescale ecosystem transitions.

Presenters: Brady Allred (University of Montana) and Dirac Twidwell (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

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Maximizing range management effectiveness with PhenoMap

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Timing is everything, especially when it comes to the complex ecological interactions between plants and the environment. For range managers concerned with maintaining the integrity and productivity of rangelands, it is critical to monitor the seasonal development and condition of grasses and other vegetation on which cattle graze. PhenoMap is a new Web-based tool that managers can use to assess the production and location of high quality forage. It uses satellite imagery to address the need for near-real-time information about plant life cycle events over large spatial areas.

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PhenoMap tool.

PhenoMap is a new Web-based tool that managers can use to assess the production and location of high-quality forage. It uses satellite imagery to address the need for near-real-time information about plant life cycle events over large spatial areas. “This remote sensing tool can help prioritize management of rapidly degrading resources across the landscape, in near real time,” says Nancy Grulke, a PNW research ecologist with the project. “Tracking resource quality from week to week with imagery can not only support management decisions with empirical evidence, but also provide a visual tool for communication with landowners.”

PhenoMap factsheet.

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