Rangeland landscapes occupy roughly 662 million acres in the coterminous U.S. (Reeves and Mitchell 2011) and their vegetation responds quickly to climate and management, with high relative growth rates and inter-annual variability. Current national decision support systems in the U.S. such as the Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System (IFT-DSS) require spatially explicit information describing production, fuels, grazing capacity and successional trajectory. However, no single system presently offers this information. In addition, issues of increasing national attention, such as preservation of lekking birds (e.g. greater sagegrouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), and greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), has prompted new management guidelines such as stubble height standards. Currently, ecological tools for predicting this type of management outcome on rangelands are quite limited in their ability to predict these variables. We developed a program for simulating succession, productivity, and fuels in non-forest environments called the Rangeland Vegetation Simulator (RVS). The RVS uses Normalized Difference Vegetation Index from a variety of sensors (it is agnostic to spatial resolution), combined with Biophysical Settings (Bps) from the LANDFIRE Project, and includes subroutines for management options including fire, and herbivory. The RVS can also work in concert with Ecological Sites to produce annual estimates of vegetal structure and composition. In addition, subroutines or parameters from the RVS can be used in concert with ST-Sim, an ecological simulation program aimed at probabilistic estimation of landscape conditions. Planners and managers alike can benefit from using RVS to understand likely management outcomes. In this vein, we have deployed the program to aid the National Forest System in Regions, 3, 4, and 5, and to provide a demonstration of the capabilities of the RVS. This project provides the best available science and information for planning and management activities, especially where geo-referenced plot data are lacking. In this paper we discuss applications and results derived for grasslands and shrublands in varied habitats across the extent Regions 3, 4, and 5.
Rangeland Vegetation Simulator
Ford, Paulette L.; Reeves, Matt C. 2018. The Rangeland Vegetation Simulator: A decision support tool for monitoring and projecting grassland conditions. In: Knuffman, L., ed. America s grasslands conference: United for grassland conservation; Proceedings of the 4th biennial conference on the Conservation of America s Grasslands; 2017 November 15-17; Fort Worth, TX. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation. p. 14-17.