Great Basin Land Management planning using ecological modeling

  • Forbis T
  • Provencher L
  • Frid L
 et al. 
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This report describes a land management modeling effort that analyzed potential impacts of proposed actions under an updated Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan that will guide management for 20 years on 4.6 million hectares in the Great Basin ecoregion of the United States. State-and-transition models that included vegetation data, fire histories, and many parameters (i.e., rates of succession, fire return intervals, outcomes of management actions, and invasion rates of native and nonnative invasive species) were developed through workshops with scientific experts and range management specialists. Alternative restoration scenarios included continuation of current management, full fire suppression, wildfire use in designated fire use zones, wildfire use in resilient vegetation types only, restoration with a tenfold budget increase, no restoration treatments, and no livestock grazing. Under all the scenarios, cover of vegetation states with native perennial understory declined and was replaced by tree-invaded and weed-dominated states. The greatest differences among alternative management scenarios resulted from the use of fire as a tool to maintain native understory. Among restoration scenarios, only the scenario assuming a tenfold budget increase had a more desirable outcome than the current management scenario. Removal of livestock alone had little effect on vegetation resilience. Rather, active restoration was required. The predictive power of the model was limited by current understanding of Great Basin vegetation dynamics and data needs including statistically valid monitoring of restoration treatments, invasiveness and invasibility, and fire histories. The authors suggest that such computer models can be useful tools for systematic analysis of potential impacts in land use planning. However, for a modeling effort to be productive, the management situation must be conducive to open communication among land management agencies and partner entities, including nonprofit organizations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Great Basin
  • community dynamics
  • federal lands
  • grazing management
  • prescribed fire
  • rangeland
  • resilience
  • thresholds
  • wildfire

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  • T A Forbis

  • L Provencher

  • L Frid

  • G Medlyn

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