Integrating ecosystem resilience and resistance into decision support tools for multi-scale population management of a sagebrush indicator species

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
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Abstract

Imperiled sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems of western North America are experiencing unprecedented conservation planning efforts. Advances in decision-support tools operationalize concepts of ecosystem resilience by quantitatively linking spatially explicit variation in soil and plant processes to outcomes of biotic and abiotic disturbances. However, failure to consider higher trophic-level fauna of conservation concern in these tools can hinder efforts to operationalize resilience owing to spatiotemporal lags between slower reorganization of plant and soil processes following disturbance, and faster behavioral and demographic responses of fauna to disturbance. Here, we provide multi-scale examples of decision-support tools for management and restoration actions that evaluate general resilience mapped to variation in soil moisture and temperature regimes through new lenses of habitat selection and population performance responses for an at-risk obligate species to sagebrush ecosystems, the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). We then briefly describe general pathways going forward for more explicit integration of sage-grouse fitness with factors influencing variation in sagebrush resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive species (e.g., annual grasses). The intended product of these efforts is a more targeted operational definition of resilience for managers by using quantifiable metrics that help limit chances of spatiotemporal mismatches among restoration responses owing to differences in engineering resilience between sagebrush ecosystem processes and sage-grouse population dynamics. Moreover, spatial resilience can be promoted though explicit consideration of sage-grouse and sagebrush predicted responses to active and passive management treatments across space and time. We describe tools that include multi-scale geospatial overlays and simulation analyses of post-disturbance land cover recovery aimed at prioritizing primary threats to sagebrush ecosystems in the Great Basin in the western portion of sage-grouse range (i.e., grass-fire cycles and conifer expansion), but underlying concepts have broader application to a range of ecosystems.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Integrating ecosystem resilience and resistance into decision support tools for multi-scale population management of a sagebrush indicator species
Series title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2019.00493
Volume 7
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Frontiers
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 493, 22 p.
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