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Center of Excellence in Rangeland Systems


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Project Locations

 

Project Information

 

Drought by Grazing Experiment - Thunder Basin

Center Researcher: Kevin Wilcox

CO-PI's:
  • Sally Koerner, University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Kim Komatsu, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
  • Lauren Porensky, USDA ARS, Fort Collins, CO
  • Kurt Reinhart, USDA ARS, Miles City, MT

Funding Source: USDA AFRI – Resilient Agroecosystems

Keywords: Drought, Grazing, Forage Production, Biodiversity, Resilience, Soil Health

Project Description:

The goal of this study is to assess how various grazing management strategies might maximize recovery of rangelands after extreme multi-year droughts. We are implementing two year droughts in experimental plots that are crossed with various levels of grazing pressure, chosen based on survey results from stakeholders. We are monitoring these plots during the drought (2019-2020) and will document their recovery (2021-2023). The variables we are measuring include: forage quality and quantity, root growth, shrub cover, plant biodiversity, plant composition, soil carbon and nitrogen, and soil microbial communities. We will be holding stakeholder workshops and webinars to disseminate our findings to land managers in 2022 and 2023.

 

Effects of Browsing and Drought on Sagebrush Populations

Center Researcher: Kevin Wilcox

Funding Source: UW Agricultural Experimental Station

Keywords: Drought, Browsing, Big Sagebrush Habitat, Ecosystem Services

Project Description:

The goal of this study is to assess how browsing intensity and drought affect Big Sagebrush habitat. We are translocating monoliths of sagebrush steppe from nearby land to the Ecosystem Simulator, housed in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources building at the University of Wyoming. Once translocated, we will simulate various intensities of drought and browsing on sagebrush monoliths and measure the response of Big Sagebrush and the surrounding grass community. Information from this study will help land managers to assess potential future states of sagebrush habitat for wildlife.

 

Adobe Town Wild Horse and Pronghorn Study

Center Researcher: Jeff Beck

Project Description:

Energy infrastructure across North America continues to increase as growing importance is placed on domestic production. Our study is designed to evaluate productivity, resource selection, and response to anthropogenic disturbance for adult female pronghorn influenced by oil and gas development in the Red Desert of south-central, Wyoming. Pronghorn have been declining across much of the Red Desert—an iconic region for pronghorn and one of the most sought-after licenses for pronghorn hunting.Pronghorn inhabiting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Baggs and Bitter Creek Herd Units are under increasing pressure from changing environmental conditions and expanding energy development, and have failed to recover from population declines over the past 20 years.

 

Baggs Sharp-tailed Grouse Study

Center Researcher: Jeff Beck

Project Description:

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are considered a species of greatest conservation need under Wyoming’s state wildlife action plan (Keinath et al. 2010). However, little is known about the ecology and population status of Columbian sharptails in south-central Wyoming, which are the main population the state. Most of what is known of this grouse consists of two studies in the 1980s evaluating sharp-tailed grouse habitat selection (Oedekoven 1985; Klott 1987; Klott and Lindzey 1989, 1990), and one recent study that identified new lek sites in our study area (Smith et al. 2016). In addition, Spaulding et al. (2006), through analysis of genetic samples from birds in Wyoming and adjacent northwest Colorado, questioned whether this population consisted of Columbian, plains (T. p. jamesi), or a different subspecies of sharp-tailed grouse. It is thus important to identify demographic rates, seasonal resource selection, and the subspecies status of this population to inform managers and prioritize conservation needs.

 

Optimizing Landscape Management for Multiple Bird Guilds

Center Researcher: Jeff Beck

Project Description:

The Thunder Basin National Grasslands (TBNG) are composed of a heterogeneous mosaic of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), short-grass, and mixed-grass communities, which provide breeding habitat for multiple suites of bird species while also supporting sheep and cattle ranching. Because this landscape is so complex, and sagebrush- and shortgrass-associated species have largely mutually exclusive habitat requirements, conservation of all species in the same landscape requires spatial optimization of management approaches and a better understanding of spatial tradeoffs. Our overall goal is to understand tradeoffs in the management of this heterogeneous landscape for different guilds of grassland and shrub-steppe birds, and how these interact with livestock production goals.

 

Normally Pressured Lance Winter Sage-Grouse Study

Center Researcher: Jeff Beck

Project Description:

Sublette County contains the only designated "winter concentration area" for Sage-Grouse winter habitat in the State of Wyoming. Jonah Energy’s Normally Pressured Lance Gas Field project overlaps this winter concentration area by almost 35,000 acres. The goal of our study is to estimate survival rates and habitat selection of sage-grouse in this area to identify areas to protect and areas that can be opened to energy development that will have limited impact on sage-grouse. Recommendations developed from this project will help guide statewide winter recommendations if and when other potential winter concentration areas are identified and mapped far from the NPL.

 

Montana Sage-Grouse Study

Center Researcher: Jeff Beck

Project Description:

Managing greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations and habitat is difficult due to their diverse seasonal movements, potentially accessing different habitats and areas during breeding, summer, and winter seasons (Connelly et al. 2011). To best manage habitat for sage-grouse, all three seasonal habitat needs should be considered. Our study aims to guide the BLM and other agencies in identifying priority habitat for which to focus management by addressing female sage-grouse needs across daily, seasonal, and reproductive states.

 

Economic Analysis of Coal Char as a Soil Additive

Center Researcher: Roger Coupal

CO-PI's:
  • Pete Stahl (Project Lead), University of Wyoming
  • Kristiana Hansen, University of Wyoming

Funding Source: UW/ SER funded through UW Reclamation and Restoration Center

Keywords: BioChar, value added coal products, soil additives

Project Description:

Soil carbon is one of the important indicators of the soil health. Economic benefits of the carbon products used for the soil amendments are the major concern of this study. Use of biochar is increasing around the world. Previous study (Jeffery et al. 2011) mentioned that there is a 10% increase in average crop production with the application of biochar with a high of 39% with biochar application at a rate of 100 ton per ha . The overall objective is to identify the potential economic risk analysis of using carbon products, mainly pyrolyzed coal or coalchar and biochar, for a soil amendment. Productivity differences will be also analyzed comparing with control experiment with mix of other carbon materials.

 

Cost Effectiveness Approach to Evaluating Reclamation Performance

Center Researcher: Roger Coupal

CO-PI's:
  • Kristina Hufford (Overall Project Director), University of Wyoming
  • Edward Gage, Colorado State University
  • Kirk Fleisher, University of Wyoming

Funding Source: WY DEQ through the Wy Reclamation and Restoration Center

Keywords: Geomorphic Reclamation, Cost Effectiveness, Ecological Risk Assessment

Project Description:

Our aim is to estimate the relative effectiveness of reclamation performance relative to control sites using stochastic estimation. We model six different metrics generated by Kristina Hufford and graduate student Kirk Fleisher. These include Shrub Ct., Shrub Ht., Forb Ct., Native Ct., % Canopy Cover, Shannon Biodiversity, Simpson Biodiv, Total Ct. The cost effectiveness approach is taken from the medical research field were CE is calculated as Treatment Cost / Quality Adjusted Life Years: Cost/QALE. In place of QALE, we simulate growth and 20 year attainment of the above metrics relative to control sites.

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