Linking ecosystem services with state-and-transition models to evaluate rangeland management decisions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Sapana Lohani1, Phil Heilman2, Joseph Ed deSteiguer1, David P Guertin1, Craig Wissler1 and Mitchel P McClaran1, (1)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, (2)USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, Tucson, AZ, United States
Quantifying ecosystem services is a crucial topic for land management decision making. However, market prices are usually not able to capture all the ecosystem services and disservices. Ecosystem services from rangelands, that cover 70% of the world’s land area, are even less well-understood since knowledge of rangelands is limited. This study generated a management framework for rangelands that uses remote sensing to generate state and transition models (STMs) for a large area and a linear programming (LP) model that uses ecosystem services to evaluate natural and/or management induced transitions as described in the STM. The LP optimization model determines the best management plan for a plot of semi-arid land in the Empire Ranch in southeastern Arizona. The model allocated land among management activities (do nothing, grazing, fire, and brush removal) to optimize net benefits and determined the impact of monetizing environmental services and disservices on net benefits, acreage allocation and production output. The ecosystem services under study were forage production (AUM/ac/yr), sediment (lbs/ac/yr), water runoff (inches/yr), soil loss (lbs/ac/yr) and recreation (thousands of number of visitors/ac/yr). The optimization model was run for three different scenarios – private rancher, public rancher including environmental services and excluding disservices, and public rancher including both services and disservices. The net benefit was the highest for the public rancher excluding the disservices. A result from the study is a constrained optimization model that incorporates ecosystem services to analyze investments on conservation and management activities. Rangeland managers can use this model to understand and explain, not prescribe, the tradeoffs of management investments.