- Additional Plants: native plants
- Animals: bovine, goats, sheep
- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate, watering systems, winter forage
- Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, riparian buffers, soil stabilization, wildlife
- Pest Management: weed ecology
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Soil Management: soil chemistry, organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
California’s range managers have repeatedly identified two key research priorities: (1) management for multiple goals, and (2) site-specific recommendations. Our most effective approach to address these priorities is to learn from hundreds of on-the-ground management trials underway in rangelands across California’s diverse climate, soil and topographical conditions. Bringing together results from rancher trials allows us to pull apart how yearly weather and site-specific conditions impact forage production and the delivery of ecosystem services (noxious weed control, diversity, erosion control, water quality, carbon sequestration). This, in turn, will help us to: - develop site-specific recommendations based on management goals - plan for droughts, high rainfall years and future climate change. Our project will address these challenges by: 1. Developing a web database of management practices and their impacts on ecosystem services. Stakeholder workshops will guide database development. Data entered by managers (practices, production, weeds) will be linked to a GIS model containing maps of soils, terrain, climate and vegetation. This data will be searchable through a web-based platform. 2. Synthesizing. A meta-analysis of this database will determine how management practices influence multiple services, and how these effects vary by site and annual weather. This analysis will also point to data gaps limiting our ability to effectively tease apart management by environment interactions. 3. On-ranch sampling. To fill the gaps determined in step #2, we will select key sites for follow-up sampling. a. To assess the impacts of management practices on multiple services along a climate gradient, we will measure a suite of goals at select management trials that were entered into the database in step #1 (50-70 ranches). b. Sites to be sampled will also be prioritized based on environmental conditions that are underrepresented in the database, which will ensure our ability to tease apart the importance of different environmental factors. Our partners (CA Cattlemen’s Association, CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition) will identify ranches to collaborate with (estimated 20-40 ranches). 4. Developing a web-based decision support tool that provides recommendations based on rancher-selected goals and location (the GIS tool will link location to site-specific conditions). The database and associated ecosystem service maps will be accessible through the Internet, Google Earth & Maps, and Smartphone applications. The key strength of this approach is that it will continue long after the funding period. The searchable database and decision support tool will enable managers to improve the effectiveness of their practices. As these improved practices are entered into the database, they will further improve the site-specific recommendations and maps provided by the decision support tool.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our overall goal is to enhance our ability to predict and manage the provisioning of multiple ecosystem services across a broad spectrum of environmental conditions in California’s rangelands.
Objective 1. Assess how local to regional differences in environmental conditions determine:
a. Site-specific potential to provide multiple ecosystem services
b. The impacts of range management practices on suites of ecosystem services, and which practices are most effective for a given service at a given site.
1. Develop a web database of management practices and their impacts on ecosystem services. 6/12-12/12
a. Stakeholder workshops will guide database design, including input variables, search terms and ways to protect privacy of ranch information.
b. A web-based database will be developed. Rancher data will be linked to a GIS-based model containing digital maps of soils, terrain, climate and vegetation cover. Raw data will be kept confidential (so a specific ranch cannot be identified), but converted data (as determined by stakeholders in step 1) will be free and open to the public, searchable through a web-based platform. We expect that manager data will mostly focus on livestock or forage productivity and prevalence of noxious rangeland weeds.
c. To supplement the manager data, long-term records will be compiled from UC Research Stations, Professors, Cooperative Extension Specialists and Farm Advisors and entered into the database. At some sites, these include decades of records.
2. Develop a “Measuring Ecosystem Services Handbook” (available on the web in print-friendly form) and eight sets of “Tools for Measuring Ecosystem Services” which will be distributed across the state in counties with large amounts of rangeland (with Farm Advisors or NRCS offices, depending on the region). We will train local Farm Advisors and NRCS staff in measuring ecosystem services with these tools. 6/12-12/12
3. Recruit managers to participate in the database. 1/13-on-going
a. At outreach events (e.g. California Rangeland Coalition’s Annual Summit, Cattlemen’s Association meetings, Cooperative Extension field days) we will hold workshops to introduce range managers to the database and train them in measurement of services, so that they will be able to monitor the impacts of their practices using the handbook and toolkits available in their county.
b. Publicize the database in newsletters, through emails and websites.
c. Our goal is to have data on production from 1,500 “sites” within the first year (500 from ranchers, 1,000 from UC). A “site” may be one ranch if it is small and in an area that is relatively similar throughout but could be a section of a ranch for larger ranches that cover diverse terrain. For other ecosystem services that are easy to detect (noxious weeds, erosion) we anticipate data from 800 sites. Data on other services, such as water quality and carbon sequestration, will be initially more limited but will serve as a baseline for future efforts to expand the database.
4. Synthesize data. 1/14. Our first meta-analysis of the database will point to data gaps which limit our ability to tease apart the interactive effects of management and environment on ecosystem services.
5. Follow-up sampling will be performed to fill the gaps determined by the meta-analysis. 1/14-12/14.
a. To assess the impacts of management practices on multiple services along a climate gradient, we will measure a suite of services at select management trials that were entered into the database in step #3 (50-70 ranches).
b. Sites to be sampled will also be prioritized based on environmental conditions that are underrepresented in the database, which will ensure our ability to tease apart the importance of different environmental factors. Our partners (CA Cattlemen’s Association, CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition) will identify ranches to collaborate with (20-40 ranches).
6. Synthesize data. 1/15-3/15 We will perform a meta-analysis of the database to determine how management practices influence multiple goals, and how these effects vary by site and annual weather. (See objective 2 for outreach materials).
Objective 2. Improve the effectiveness of range management by enhancing the availability of information for developing management plans.
1. Long-term database on the impacts of management on ecosystem services across space and time (same database as in Objective 1, Performance target 1). 6/12-12/12
2. Enable ranchers to take their own data on ecosystem services, allowing them to better engage in adaptive management. (same as in Objective 1, Performance target 2) 6/12-12/12
a. Handbook for measuring multiple ecosystem services and measurement tool kits.
b. Training workshops on measuring services
3. Develop an online site-specific decision support tool for managing multiple services. 6/14-5/15. This will provide recommendations based on rancher-selected goals and location (our GIS tool will link location to site-specific conditions). The support tool and associated ecosystem service maps will be accessible by Google Earth & Maps, and Smartphone applications.
a. In addition to handling site variability, this decision support tool will also use long-term data within regions to allow ranchers to plan for extreme weather years (e.g. droughts).
b. In the future, we will build upon this project to develop a module that assesses the impacts of climate change.
4. Develop regional maps of the distribution of multiple ecosystem services. 3/15-5/15. These maps will be available on the internet and will allow ranchers and conservation professionals to target areas where:
- Provision of a given service is inherently high (regardless of management)
- Management is critical for provision of a given service
- Provision of a given service is low, even under intensive management for that service.