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Restoration Assessment and Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS)
A Program of the Southwest Biological Science Center & Ecosystems Mission Area
Hello RAMPS Community,
It’s been an interesting summer filled with fires, floods, recreation and welcome precipitation! This activity is keeping us busy, presenting new challenges to land management, and hopefully opening up new opportunities as well. In this session of the RAMPS newsletter, we are sharing some research and tools for making decisions that address these challenges and take advantage of any opportunities. A new global analysis of dryland restoration has revealed insights for seed-based restoration, we just launched a new ecological drought forecast tool for drylands, we continue to build on guidance for simple land treatments that promote vegetation establishment, and led the publication of the 2015-2020 Progress Report for the National Native Seed Strategy.
Our thoughts are with those of us who have been negatively impacted this summer. We hope this newsletter makes decision making during these changing times a bit easier.
Molly McCormick, RAMPS Coordinator
Seth Munson, RAMPS Ecologist
CONSIDER SEEDING AT A HIGHER RATE AND INCLUDING PLANT TRAITS WHEN SELECTING SPECIES FOR RESTORATION
New study of dryland restoration across the globe reveals insights for successful seed-based restoration
ABSTRACT: Restoration of degraded drylands is urgently needed to mitigate climate change, reverse desertification and secure livelihoods for the two billion people who live in these areas. Bold global targets have been set for dryland restoration to restore millions of hectares of degraded land. These targets have been questioned as overly ambitious, but without a global evaluation of successes and failures it is impossible to gauge feasibility. Here we examine restoration seeding outcomes across 174 sites on six continents, encompassing 594,065 observations of 671 plant species. Our findings suggest reasons for optimism. Seeding had a positive impact on species presence: in almost a third of all treatments, 100% of species seeded were growing at first monitoring. However, dryland restoration is risky: 17% of projects failed, with no establishment of any seeded species, and consistent declines were found in seeded species as projects matured. Across projects, higher seeding rates and larger seed sizes resulted in a greater probability of recruitment, with further influences on species success including site aridity, taxonomic identity and species life form. Our findings suggest that investigations examining these predictive factors will yield more effective and informed restoration decision-making.
CITATION: Shackleford, N., Paterno, G.B., Winkler, D.E., Erickson, T.E., Leger, E.A., Svejcar, L.N., Breed, M.F., Faist, A.M., Harrison, P.A., Curran, M.F., Guo, Q., Kirmer, A., Law, D.J., Mganga, K.Z., Munson, S.M., and others, 2021, Drivers of seedling establishment success in dryland restoration efforts: Nature Ecology and Evolution, online, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01510-3.
NEW TOOL HELPS DECISION-MAKING FOR LAND TREATMENTS AND SEED-BASED RESTORATION
Ecological Drought Forecaster Tool gives sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasts for improving restoration success
Weather impacts the effectiveness of land treatments. This is especially true in drylands of the Western U.S. where plant survival is heavily influenced by the combination of temperature and soil moisture. When planning land treatments such as seeding, outplanting, and using herbicide, knowing weather and soil moisture forecasts can improve efficacy of treatments and avoid drought-driven restoration failures. This information can also be used as part of a post-treatment monitoring program to inform adaptive management processes. The Drought Forecast Tool is a quick, easy-to-use application for supporting decision making around land treatment planning and adaptive management.
Find out more here.
LOW-COST TREATMENTS LIKE VERTICAL MULCH HELP ACHIEVE RESTORATION BENEFITS
Study in Mojave supports use of abiotic treatments even when restoration plantings do not survive
ABSTRACT: Two related concepts in restoration ecology include the relative interchangeability of biotic and abiotic restoration treatments for initiating recovery and bet hedging using multiple restoration approaches to increase the likelihood of favorable restoration outcomes. We used these concepts as a framework to implement a factorial experiment including biotic (outplanting greenhouse-grown individuals of three perennial species) and abiotic treatments (constructing microtopography or vertical mulch consisting of upright, dead plant material). These treatments were designed to stimulate native plant recruitment and reverse soil degradation at four disturbed sites in the Sonoran Desert, U.S.A. The first growing season after restoration treatments was the driest of the last 47 years, and 100% of outplants died. While the biotic treatment failed, the vertical mulch abiotic treatment increased native shrub seedling cover at the driest site and reversed soil loss across sites by increasing soil accumulation by 6× to 2 cm/year. Results revealed that i) inexpensive, minimal-input abiotic treatments outperformed resource-intensive biotic treatments; ii) the restoration effort withstood the total failure of a major component (outplanting) to nevertheless achieve key restoration benefits within 2-3 growing seasons; and iii) incorporating multiple treatment types served as a bet-hedging approach to buffer against treatment failures. Integrating minimal-input abiotic treatments in restoration warrants consideration given their low cost and bet-hedging potential.
CITATION: Rader, A.J., Chiquoine, L.P., Weigand, J.F., Perkins, J.L., Munson, S.M. and Abella, S.R. (2021), Biotic and abiotic treatments as a bet-hedging approach to restoring plant communities and soil functions. Restoration Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13527
FEDERAL AGENCIES WORKING TOGETHER TO MEET PRIORITIES BY INCREASING THE USE OF GENETICALLY APPROPRIATE SEEDS FOR RESTORATION
National Seed Strategy Progress Report 2015-2020
New report offers examples of cross-cutting public-private partnerships that are developing and using genetically appropriate native seeds for restoration. Read the report to learn more about why genetically appropriate native seeds matter for restoration and rehabilitation, ways people are working together to increase the supply of native seeds, how various federal agencies and non-federal cooperators participate, and how native seed development helps meet priorities of the Biden-Harris administration. The report also contains a list of citations relevant to seed-based restoration that can be used as a resource. Molly McCormick, RAMPS Coordinator, was the lead author of the report, and many RAMPS partners contributed projects.
Read the Progress Report here.
WEBINAR September 24, 2021 from 11:30-12:00 pm PST
CITATION: Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). 2021. National Seed Strategy Progress Report, 2015-2020. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 74 pp.
RAMPS TO SUPPORT SOLAR DEVELOPMENT
First ever before-after impact study of vegetation and wildlife beginning on the largest U.S. solar array in the Mojave Desert
The U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Science Center will be conducting vegetation monitoring to document changes in vegetation that occur on the Gemini Solar Project site before and after construction and site maintenance, which includes vegetation being mowed and/or crushed under and between solar panels, and occasionally trimmed to prevent shading of solar panels. The monitoring includes documenting impacts to native plant species, including the endangered threecorner milkvetch (Astragalus geyeri var. triquetrus), and the abundance of invasive non-native species. The monitoring will incorporate changes to the physical condition of the site, including soil erosion, dust emission, temperature, and soil moisture. The Gemini Solar Project is translocating endangered desert tortoise before construction, and reintroducing tortoises to the site after construction is complete. Therefore, the vegetation monitoring will inform habitat suitability upon reintroduction. The Gemini Solar Project is located on Bureau of Land Management land in the northeastern portion of the Mojave Desert.
Find out more about the USGS project here.
USGS SOUTHWEST BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE CENTER
OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN ABOUT IMPACTS OF DROUGHT AND CLIMATE CHANGE FOR RANGE MANAGEMENT
Field Tour with Society for Range Management and Colorado Plateau Science and Management Forum
ADAPTING TO CHANGE: AVOID, REDUCE, RESTORE. The Colorado Section for the Society for Range Management and Colorado Plateau Science and Management Forum are partnering to host a field day and workshop this year in Grand Junction! This year will focus on what is known about the future impacts of aridification to western Colorado rangelands, how we can adapt and build resilience, as well as strategies for avoiding and reducing land degradation and restoring degraded lands. This meeting is for land managers, ranchers, students, stewards and anyone interested in rangeland stewardship in our region. October 6th and 7th. Learn more and register here: https://www.cssrm.org/events.html
NEW STUDY HELPS TAKE THE GUESS WORK OUT OF SUPPORTING TORTOISES AND POLLINATORS FOR PARTS OF THE MOJAVE
USGS Western Ecological Science Center releases priority restoration species lists
ABSTRACT: Mojave Desert shrublands are home to unique plants and wildlife and are experiencing rapid habitat change due to unprecedented large-scale disturbances; yet, established practices to effectively restore disturbed landscapes are not well developed. A priority species list of native plant taxa was developed to guide seed collectors, commercial growers, resource managers, and restoration practitioners in support of the Bureau of Land Management's Mojave Desert Native Plant Program. We identify focal plant taxa that are important for habitats of the threatened Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a widely distributed herbivore in low and middle elevations, and pollinator taxa, including mostly Lepidopterans and Apoidean bees, some of whose populations are in decline. We identified 201 unique plant taxa in the diets of tortoises, and 49 taxa that provide thermal cover for tortoises with some overlapping taxa that provide both diet and cover. We discuss 134 native pollinators associated with plants used for nectaring, larval hosts, or cover and nesting materials. Detailed plant species accounts describing the status-of-knowledge for 57 plant taxonomic groups including detailed information on life history, ecology, and pollinator syndrome relevant to restoration success, methods of seed harvesting, propagation, and historical use in restoration. Our approach for developing a priority plant species list for the Mojave Desert provides a data-guided listing of species for restoration practitioners and identifies knowledge gaps for future investigation.
CITATION: Esque, T. C., DeFalco, L. A., Tyree, G. L., Drake, K. K., Nussear, K. E., & Wilson, J. S. (2021). Priority Species Lists to Restore Desert Tortoise and Pollinator Habitats in Mojave Desert Shrublands. Natural Areas Journal, 41(2), 145-158.
RAMPS is a program of the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center located in Flagstaff, AZ
RAMPS engages stakeholders within the Department of the Interior, other federal and state agencies, tribal governments, and on private lands to provide guidance and support for effective restoration strategies across the southwestern U.S. The RAMPS network consists of over 500 individuals representing 50+ agencies, organizations, and universities working together to increase land productivity and reduce threats posed by environmental hazards.