Rangeland research on the Jornada Experimental Range

TitleRangeland research on the Jornada Experimental Range
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsEstell R.E., Anderson D.M., Fredrickson E.L., Havstad K, Mitchell K.A., Rango A.
Conference NameLivestock Research Briefs and Cattle Growers' Short Course
Date PublishedMarch 27-28, 200
Conference LocationFarmington, NM
ARIS Log Number149102
Keywordscattle growers, course, livestock, rangeland, research, research notes

The mission of the Jornada Experimental Range is to develop new technologies for the management and remediation of desert rangelands. A few studies in progress that relate directly to this mission are summarized below. One major focus is to develop methodologies for controlling livestock distribution on rangelands. A study is in progress to evaluate the potential of virtual fencing as an alternative to conventional fencing for real-time control of animal movement. A small solar-powered unit worn by the animal uses signals from GPS satellites to determine animal location and a GIS database to define a virtual boundary. When an animal penetrates this boundary, a cue is applied to encourage the animal to move away from the virtual boundary. Preliminary data indicate this low-stress technology can be used to control animal movement. Protein supplementation during conditions of low quality forage is another practice that may be used to control animal movement. Preliminary data indicate that protein supplementation affects beef cow distribution patterns with non-supplemented animals exhibiting greater dispersal and supplemented cows remaining near supplementation areas. These studies have implications for improving forage utilization and livestock management, as well as excluding livestock from ecologically sensitive areas. A third study in progress involves quantification of carbon storage in plants and soils on arid rangelands. This research combines direct field measurement of CO2 fluxes, soil carbon analysis, and modeling. The project will examine how carbon storage might change naturally over time or be influenced by management practices. Initial results suggest rangelands may serve as a significant long-term repository for carbon when shrubs store large amounts of carbon belowground in their extensive woody root systems. Also, aerial photography is being examined as a tool to reconstruct the remediation treatment history of rangelands. Many treatments have been implemented during the last 100 years in an effort to slow shrub invasion, but over time, land management agencies have been disbanded or reorganized and paper records have been lost, resulting in poor documentation of type and extent of treatment, methods used, and evaluations of success. Nationwide aerial photography begun by USDA and other agencies as early as 1930 is a valuable source of information for establishing past management histories and vegetation response to treatments on rangelands. Treatments imposed on the Jornada during early research projects (e.g., root plowing during the 1970's, ponding dikes constructed in 1975, and manual shrub removal in 1936) are still evident in aerial photographs today. Combining aerial photography and remaining conventional records with present day field measurements greatly increases the total information available regarding the management history and most effective remediation approaches for use today.