Rangeland Ecosystem Services

Science Center Objects

The Rangeland Ecosystem Services research described below is conducted and managed under the USGS Applied Landscape Ecology and Remote Sensing project and partners.

several graphs

Land use and land cover change by scenario and year for priority habitats and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Focus Area as a percentage of total area for scenarios A2 (a), A1B (b), and B1 (c). Rangeland habitat is defined as areas mapped as grassland, shrubland, forest, woody wetland, or herbaceous wetland. Priority habitat is defined as rangeland habitat in unprotected critical priority conservation areas mapped in the Rangeland Coalition focus area map (The Nature Conservancy 2007) (Byrd et al. 2015, Landscape Ecology)

(Credit: Kristin Byrd, USGS. Public domain.)

The 18 million acres of rangelands in the Central Valley of California and surrounding foothills provide multiple benefits to people—including wildlife habitat, water supply, open space, recreation, and cultural resources. Most of this land is privately owned and managed for livestock production. These rangelands are vulnerable to land-use conversion and climate change. We developed integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services, focusing on wildlife habitat, soil carbon and water supply. Results show the importance of accounting for recharge areas, which provide opportunities for water storage in dry years, in climate-smart land use planning efforts. This project was funded by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the USGS Land Change Science Program.

We are now researching opportunities for management of soil organic matter on California’s working lands (croplands and rangelands) to increase climate mitigation and resilience benefits for the California 4th Climate Change Assessment (lead PI: Lorraine Flint). We developed multiple land use and conservation scenarios to address two main questions: (1) What are the risks to preserving climate benefits, in particular hydrologic benefits, on working lands? (2) To what extent can teaming conservation programs with soil management practices increase climate benefits? Scenarios are used to identify barriers to and incentives for rangeland and farmland conservation and soil management for increased climate resiliency. We focus on spatially explicit model outputs of hydrologic benefits of soil management, including groundwater recharge, evapotranspiration, and reduced water stress. Work is conducted through the use of the USGS LUCAS land change model and the USGS Basin Characterization Model. This reseach was funded by the State of California and the USGS Land Change Science Program.