Rangelands provide a myriad of ecosystem services contributing substantial value to socioecological systems, yet many rangelands have experienced a proliferation of shrubs in concert with the loss of livestock forage. Efforts to combat “shrub encroachment” include a variety of ‘brush management’ practices aimed at restoring forage production – but these are seldom economically viable from that standpoint. However, grassland-to-shrubland transitions affect numerous other ecosystem services. A broader evaluation of shrub encroachment/brush management impacts on ecosystem services would enable (i) more accurate assessments of the true conservation value of brush management actions and (ii) development of guidelines for determining when, where and under what circumstances to use brush management to promote desired ecosystem services.
To develop this framework, Scott Jones's project aims to quantify rates/patterns of shrub cover change on sites with contrasting soils, topography, and brush management histories to assess baseline levels of ecosystem services and quantify their change over time. Jones will then project how future shrub encroachment/brush management actions will impact provisions of stakeholder-desired ESs across the landscape.
The objectives of this project are to: (i) determine spatiotemporal changes to ecosystem services on a shrub encroached landscape (Las Cienegas National Conservation Area located in Southeastern Arizona) (ii) identify synergies/trade-offs of ecosystem services under different restoration scenarios and (iii) ascertain when, where and what circumstances brush management activities might be warranted to maintain desired bundles of services. Addressing these objectives will position me to evaluate the nature and magnitude of trade-offs among contrasting, sometimes competing, land management scenarios.