RAMPS: Restoration Assessment & Monitoring Program for the Southwest

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The Restoration Assessment and Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS) seeks to assist U.S. Department of the Interior and other land management agencies and private partners in developing successful restoration strategies for dryland ecosystems of the southwestern United States. Invasive species, drought, habitat loss, fire, urban expansion, and other disturbances have degraded southwestern ecosystems. In water-limited regions, restoration can be difficult and costly. These growing problems often cross administrative boundaries, requiring people to proactively work together. In response, RAMPS has created an inter-disciplinary network of scientists, land managers, and practitioners coordinated at the Southwest Biological Science Center that use service-delivery models to improve restoration strategies and outcomes.

Close-up of dried, cracked soil with small plants trying to survive in this soil.

Rangelands of the desert Southwest can become degraded and lose perennial vegetation, which can lead to exposed soil and erosion. RAMPS is working to mitigate degradation by increasing productivity and ecosystem function of rangelands. (Credit: Molly McCormick, USGS. Public domain.)

Launched in June 2016, RAMPS was developed to assist U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and other land management agencies develop successful restoration strategies for the water-limited ecosystems of the Southwest. RAMPS is funded by DOI and composed of scientists and managers from multiple USGS Science Centers, DOI management agencies, and universities.

Why is RAMPS Needed?

The Restoration Assessment and Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS) seeks to assist U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and other land management agencies in developing successful treatment activities, such as restoration, mitigation, rehabilitation, and land enhancement. Invasion by non-native species, wildfire, drought, and other disturbances are growing rapidly in extent and frequency, creating novel ecosystem states and transitions that create challenging conditions for land managers. Managers can greatly benefit from collaborative, innovative, and dynamic approaches to transmit and receive information on the most effective and resource-efficient approaches to enhance land condition and wildlife habitat. In order to meet this management need, RAMPS has created a hub for information, science, and tools needed to successfully restore degraded areas. 

What are the RAMPS activities?

Data synthesis: There is a lack of land treatment, restoration, mitigation, and enhancement data and results that provide managers and practitioners with information about successes and failures that could enhance the effectiveness of subsequent efforts. Learning from successful approaches and replicating those approaches will streamline the decision-making process and enhance outcomes.

Cost-benefit analysis: Cost effectiveness in management and intervention efforts is of primary concern to management agencies and organizations that have limited resources to conduct treatments. Evaluation of projects needs to consider both costs and meeting desired outcomes.

Plant materials guidance: Deciding on appropriate plant materials (seeds, container plants, or cuttings) can be difficult given the potential limited supply of materials and scientific knowledge of appropriate seed transfer zones for species. Access to seed selection tools, plant materials producers, and the latest research on plant materials can improve land enhancement outcomes.

Increasing Access to Monitoring and Information Sharing: Restoration and rehabilitation treatments are frequently conducted to conform to environmental laws and regulations, but are often lacking an effective monitoring framework to determine if treatments have been successful in recovering desirable plant, soil, and ecosystem properties. Deployment of rapid assessment monitoring protocols will increase accountability, create data that can be shared and analyzed on a landscape scale, improve planning and implementation, provide guidance to support effective land treatments, and save money over time by avoiding ineffective treatment practices. Contact RAMPS Coordinator, Molly McCormick to join the RAMPS consortium.

RestoreNet field trial network: Systematic experimental sites that will synthesize existing knowledge on land treatments and test new methods can improve restoration outcomes.

Community of practice: Strengthening a community of practice or knowledge sharing amongst stakeholders who provide land enhancement services will inform the work of RAMPS from the ground-up. This will increase social capital and adaptive capacity within the community.


Scientist sitting with three other people in a ponderosa pine system discussing seed collection methods

RAMPS scientist training a local seed collection crew on how to collect tissue samples for DNA analysis. (Credit: Molly McCormick, USGS. Public domain.)

RAMPS scientist meeting with two land managers in arid shrubland

RAMPS scientist meeting with two land managers in arid shrubland. (Credit: Mike Duniway, USGS, Southwest Biological Science Center. Public domain.)