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Woody Plant Encroachment and the Sustainability of Priority Conservation Areas

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Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska, Keim Hall, Lincoln, NE 66583-0915, USA
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Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Hardin Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583-0961, USA
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Center for Resilience in Agricultural Working Landscapes, University of Nebraska, Keim Hall, Lincoln, NE 66583-0915, USA
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School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Hardin Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583-0961, USA
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W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
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Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8321; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208321
Received: 19 September 2020 / Revised: 6 October 2020 / Accepted: 7 October 2020 / Published: 9 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainability, Biodiversity and Conservation)
Woody encroachment is a global driver of grassland loss and management to counteract encroachment represents one of the most expensive conservation practices implemented in grasslands. Yet, outcomes of these practices are often unknown at large scales and this constrains practitioner’s ability to advance conservation. Here, we use new monitoring data to evaluate outcomes of grassland conservation on woody encroachment for Nebraska’s State Wildlife Action Plan, a statewide effort that targets management in Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs) to conserve the state’s natural communities. We tracked woody cover trajectories for BULs and compared BUL trajectories with those in non-priority landscapes (non-BULs) to evaluate statewide and BUL-scale conservation outcomes more than a decade after BUL establishment. Statewide, woody cover increased by 256,653 ha (2.3%) from 2000–2017. Most BULs (71%) experienced unsustainable trends of grassland loss to woody encroachment; however, management appeared to significantly reduce BUL encroachment rates compared to non-BULs. Most BULs with early signs of encroachment lacked control strategies, while only one BUL with moderate levels of encroachment (Loess Canyons) showed evidence of a management-driven stabilization of encroachment. These results identify strategic opportunities for proactive management in grassland conservation and demonstrate how new monitoring technology can support large-scale adaptive management pursuits. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptive management; brush management; conservation outcomes; Eastern redcedar; ecosystem monitoring; large-scale conservation; sustainability; tree invasion; woody plant encroachment; working lands adaptive management; brush management; conservation outcomes; Eastern redcedar; ecosystem monitoring; large-scale conservation; sustainability; tree invasion; woody plant encroachment; working lands
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MDPI and ACS Style

Fogarty, D.T.; Roberts, C.P.; Uden, D.R.; Donovan, V.M.; Allen, C.R.; Naugle, D.E.; Jones, M.O.; Allred, B.W.; Twidwell, D. Woody Plant Encroachment and the Sustainability of Priority Conservation Areas. Sustainability 2020, 12, 8321. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208321

AMA Style

Fogarty DT, Roberts CP, Uden DR, Donovan VM, Allen CR, Naugle DE, Jones MO, Allred BW, Twidwell D. Woody Plant Encroachment and the Sustainability of Priority Conservation Areas. Sustainability. 2020; 12(20):8321. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208321

Chicago/Turabian Style

Fogarty, Dillon T., Caleb P. Roberts, Daniel R. Uden, Victoria M. Donovan, Craig R. Allen, David E. Naugle, Matthew O. Jones, Brady W. Allred, and Dirac Twidwell. 2020. "Woody Plant Encroachment and the Sustainability of Priority Conservation Areas" Sustainability 12, no. 20: 8321. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208321

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