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Long-term trends in restoration and associated land treatments in the southwestern United States

September 6, 2017

Restoration treatments, such as revegetation with seeding or invasive species removal, have been applied on U.S. public lands for decades. Temporal trends in these management actions have not been extensively summarized previously, particularly in the southwestern United States where invasive plant species, drought, and fire have altered dryland ecosystems. We assessed long-term (1940–2010) trends in restoration using approximately 4,000 vegetation treatments conducted on Bureau of Land Management lands across the southwestern United States. We found that since 1940, the proportions of seeding and vegetation/soil manipulation (e.g. vegetation removal or plowing) treatments have declined, while the proportions of prescribed burn and invasive species treatments have increased. Treatments in pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush communities declined in comparison to treatments in desert scrub, creosote bush, and riparian woodland communities. Restoration-focused treatment objectives increased relative to resource extraction objectives. Species richness and proportion of native species used in seeding treatments also increased. Inflation-adjusted costs per area rose 750% for vegetation/soil manipulation, 600% for seeding, and 400% for prescribed burn treatments in the decades from 1981 to 2010. Seeding treatments were implemented in warmer and drier years when compared to the climate conditions of the entire study period and warmer and wetter years relative to several years before and after the treatment. These results suggest that treatments over a 70-year period on public lands in the southwestern United States are shifting toward restoration practices that are increasingly large, expensive, and related to fire and invasive species control.

Publication Year 2018
Title Long-term trends in restoration and associated land treatments in the southwestern United States
DOI 10.1111/rec.12574
Authors Stella M. Copeland, Seth M. Munson, David S. Pilliod, Justin L. Welty, John B. Bradford, Bradley J. Butterfield
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70190523
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Southwest Biological Science Center