17th Wildland Shrub Symposium

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Humans in Changing Landscapes

May 22-24, 2012, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA



Andres Cibils (acibils@nmsu.edu) and Rosemary Pendleton (rpendleton@fs.fed.us)


Session Topics

  1. Shrubland/Grassland Restoration: Systems Under Stress - Western landscapes are experiencing significant stress due to invasives, energy development, climate change, and current and historic land uses/abuses. This session will focus on all aspects of shrubland restoration, including case studies, materials development, establishment techniques, and needs assessments, as well as the underlying ecological principles governing restoration of functional ecosystems.
  2. The Changing Landscape for Livestock on Rangelands - Shrubs and other woody plants are predicted to become an increasingly important component of rangeland vegetation worldwide. Global livestock numbers are increasing at unprecedented rates that parallel the surge in red meat demand by middle class people seeking to include more animal protein in their diets. The development of sustainable strategies to use woody forages is predicted to play a central role in rangeland-based livestock production systems of the future. This session will seek to explore the most relevant facets of this phenomenon.
  3. Humans in the Environment - Shrublands, like all ecosystems, are inextricably linked with humans and human management decisions. However, because ecosystem services produced by shrublands often have less commercial value than services produced by farmlands or forests, shrublands often claim lower prices than lands which support larger human populations. This socioeconomic dynamic can create a negative feedback loop in that low commercial value leaves shrublands prone to colonization by human communities with reduced incomes and limited access to land management knowledge. Resulting mis-management, often initiated by policies designed for less fragile ecosystems, results in degradation that further reduces land values. In this session, we invite presentations that highlight the ecosystem services provided by shrublands, recognize the diverse populations shrublands serve, and/or describe efforts needed to reverse these negative feedback loops to promote healthier ecosystems.
  4. Micro-scale Dynamics in Shrublands - Micro-scale interactions, including  chemical, biochemical and molecular interactions,  microbial interactions within and beyond microbiomes, biochemical signaling, allelopathy, and genetic changes  can all have important influences on the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, water, and other elements and molecules essential to ecosystem health and fitness.  New breakthroughs in DNA sequencing, metagenomics, metabolomics, enzymatic profiling, and related disciplines are promoting new understanding of these very fine scale processes.  In this session, we seek presentations describing those micro-scale dynamics that influence soils, plants and animals in shrublands  or shrub-invaded grasslands, and discussing how these micro-scale dynamics may respond to management.  Presentations highlighting powerful and robust techniques for detecting and monitoring micro-scale shrubland  processes are also encouraged.
  5. Establishing A Theoretical Basis for Ecological Site Descriptions - Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) and the State and Transition Models (STMs) contained in them have become a common approach to organizing, explaining, and predicting many of the soil and vegetation changes associated with shrub increase on rangelands in the United States and around the world. In this session, we will examine some of the fundamental concepts that support ESDs and STMs and suggest where they have held up and where they have been found wanting. We will conclude with recommendations about the application of existing concepts and where new ideas need to be tested.
  6. Soils and Geomorphology - Wildland shrubs are linked to soils and geomorphology by several feedback loops at several scales. At fine spatial and temporal scales, soil particle-size, salinity, aeration, and water holding capacity have major influences on seed germination and plant growth, while the soil, in turn, is modified by plant additions of carbon and its associated influences on aggregates, nitrogen, and microbial populations. At meso spatial and temporal scales, hillslopes and easily blown sands give rise to lateral re-distribution of water, sediments, nutrients, and propagules that affect the survival of vegetation communities, which, in turn, affect erosion by giving rise to various amounts of bare ground. At broad spatial and temporal scales, landscape stability versus landscape instability of large areas are controlled by expansion and contraction of desert biomes that, in turn, control fluvial base levels and give rise to stacked sequences of buried paleosols on the glacial/interglacial time scale. Papers are encouraged that explore the connections between the biotic and soil-geomorphic worlds at multiple spatial and temporal scales.
  7. Remote Sensing Applications - Remotely sensed imagery is a valuable tool for mapping and monitoring the Earth’s surface. The spatial extent and rugged remote nature of rangeland ecosystems provide ample opportunities to enhance decision making and facilitate monitoring in a consistent manner. Recent advances in data accessibility and analysis techniques have increased awareness of these tools. However, an operational framework to inform decision making at spatial scales relevant to land management has yet to be implemented. In this session, we will showcase remote sensing applications in wildlands with emphasis on problem solving and land management. We welcome presentations featuring all types of remotely sensed imagery including oblique ground photography (e.g., pheno-cams) and imagery from aerial and satellite platforms with emphasis on those that link image products to land management decision making.
  8. Carbon Stocks and Fluxes in Shrubland - are poorly understood compared with other systems on landscape. We would like to invite presentations on the following three broadly-defined questions related to carbon cycle in shrubland at the site to national scales using measurements (e.g., eddy covariance towers), remote sensing, modeling, and synthesis techniques: 1) how much C is stored in shrubland, and what are the major factors defining C stock distribution? 2) how C cycle is affected by various processes? These processes might include climate variability and change, extreme climate events, disturbances, grazing, woody encroachment, and management, etc.  3) What are the status and challenges in the characterization of carbon-related shrubland properties (e.g., woody encroachment, biomass monitoring, management and disturbances).


Sponsors of the 17th Wildland Shrub Symposium

The Jornada Experimental Range

New Mexico State University, Animal and Range Sciences

USDA Forest Service


USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service