Rodents, Snakes, and Raptors, oh my!

Wildlife responses to grassland restoration are perhaps more complex and less predictable than previously thought. I gave the most complete presentation of the results of my wildlife-grassland restoration research in an invited talk to the Sacramento-Shasta Chapter of The Wildlife Society (Invited Talk Flyer) at end of August, and the presentation can be found here. While more analyses…

“Summer water in a restored native grassland flushes annual grass seed bank but fails to increase native perennial cover” published!

Our manuscript entitled “Summer water in a restored native grassland flushes annual grass seed bank but fails to increase native perennial cover”, co-authored with Dr. Truman P. Young, has been published in the journal Ecosphere (see link here, or download here with supplemental material here). In this manuscript we detail our experiment to test summer watering to ‘flush’ the…

In 2nd Review: Rotational & Continuous Grazing Meta-Analysis

Debates over the effectiveness and benefits of a variety of grazing systems abound, and have been ongoing for well over a century. In 2008, Briske et al. (see Rotational Grazing on Rangelands: Reconciliation of Perception and Experimental Evidence) published a paper addressing this issue, concluding that there is no significant difference between “rotational” or “continuous” grazing systems…

Rancher-to-Rancher at Sierra Foothills Conservancy

I was lucky enough to spend last Saturday with the Rancher-to-Rancher program and my good friend and Cowboy Conservationist Kent Reeves at the stunningly beautiful Sierra Foothills Conservancy. Peter Donovan, founder of the Soil Carbon Coalition, wrote up a great summary of how livestock are being used as a beneficial tool to manage vegetation and soils…

Restoration is Best for Wildlife, Right?

Double whammy in the Winter 2016 issue of California Native Grassland Association’s publication, Grasslands! This issue contains an article I wrote about the overall results of my study comparing wildlife in restored and unrestored grasslands in the Central Valley of California (see A Comparative Study for a recap), as well as a one-page biographical piece on yours truly. Download the…

Restoration is best for wildlife, right?

Today I gave a talk at the 69th Annual Society for Range Management meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas about my wildlife-restoration project in the Central Valley of California. Take a look at the abstract and click on the link below to see the PDF version of my presentation. I’m having a lot of fun catching up…

Livestock-Recreation Interactions Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program Workshop

“Grazing is not only compatible, it is mandatory.” – Consultant On September 29th, cooperative extension specialists, public land agency managers, consultants, and graziers met in Santa Clara for a workshop I led on compatibility of livestock grazing and recreation on public lands. As livestock grazing on the coast moves increasingly into the public land forum and recreational…

Livestock-recreation interactions on public lands: a complex emerging issue of conservation, economics, and social responsibility

Livestock grazing and recreational pursuits are often concurrent on California rangelands, but on rare occasions conflicts between recreationists and livestock or graziers arise. I am conducting a comprehensive Literature Review (Part One) regarding issues surrounding simultaneous livestock grazing and recreation on public lands. To investigate region-specific issues regarding livestock-recreation issues on coastal California public lands, I am also conducting…

Continuous versus rotational grazing, again: Another perspective from meta-analysis

In an effort to close the continuous- (CG) versus rotational-grazing (RG) debate that has occupied rangeland management discussions for over a century, Briske et al. (2008) reviewed 47 peer-reviewed journal articles from 1950-2007 comparing CG with various RG systems. The authors used vote counting to tally the number of studies that found significantly greater, equal, or lower production for CG relative to RG for three response variables: animal production (AP, both in kg/head and kg/ha) and plant production (PP, kg /ha). They concluded grazing research does not show these two systems produce different results, and as such advocates for RG are likely relying on anecdotal observations. However, a quantitative meta-analysis of the same studies revealed differences not previously detected by the vote-counting method. Animal production was on average higher for CG than RG, but multivariate regression instances in which RG may outperform CG. Anecdotal observations that animal production may be higher under RG than CG in highly stochastic or arid climates was supported at the ranch scale (large scale, commercial-sized operations), but not at the research scale (small-scale, plots-scale studies), suggesting size of operation/observation plays an important role in detection of productivity outcomes. Increased seasonality of temperature was also strongly significant, showing higher productivity for RG systems relative to CG as seasonality increased. However, limited numbers of large-scale experiments in arid environments (8) included in the 2008 paper make conclusive statements regarding grazing system effectiveness difficult. These results suggest the possibility of RG outperforming CG for animal production at large scales in less constant, arid climates – where most livestock grazing occurs.

California Native Plant Society Conservation Conference, 2015

In California’s Central Valley, 98% of native grasslands have been destroyed or degraded due to weed invasion, farming, development, and habitat fragmentation. Grassland restoration is often assumed to provide a host of ecosystem services, including improved wildlife habitat, and therefore should result in higher wildlife abundance and diversity relative to unrestored and invaded grasslands. We compared relative wildlife utilization at paired restored and unrestored (control) grasslands at four locations in Yolo and Sacramento counties using live and camera traps, snake boards, and observational surveys in the spring and summer of 2014. Restored sites were planted with native perennial grasses 10-20 years ago but are heavily invaded with Mediterranean annual grasses and forbs. Control sites contained similar non-native plant assemblages but did not have any native grass cover. In general, mouse, vole, and snake utilization was higher at control relative to restored sites in both spring and summer. Summer raptor surveys revealed greater species diversity, foraging time, and attack rates at control sites as well, likely in response to greater rodent abundance. Within sites, species-specific responses were related to vegetative cover and percent bare ground. For example, Peromyscus maniculatus (deer mouse, Cricetidae) was associated with high bare ground and low vertical cover, regardless of site type (control/restored). Results from continued seasonal monitoring through winter 2016 may aid in clarifying goals and methods of restoration, but these current results suggest that restoring native California grasslands may not increase wildlife utilization, suggesting a more nuanced approach is required for the restoration of biodiversity.

Invasive Fire Ants in Restored and Unrestored Central Valley grasslands

I mentioned earlier that I have started monitoring invasive Argentinian fire ant infestation of Sherman live traps during my rodent trapping periods. Initial data collection began in July 2014 for a subset of trapping days at two of the four locations where I am monitoring wildlife. The number of live traps infested with fire ants was used as an…

Can summer watering alter seasonal priority effects and reduce the annual grass weed challenge in a restored grassland?

This post will describe the background, rationale, methods, and some preliminary results for a series of summer watering experiments that I conducted over two years to determine if summer watering in an already restored grassland can produce a strong enough weed flush (exotic annual grasses) to reduce weed challenges in the subsequent growing season. Please see my other…