Sagebrush ecosystems are a major component of western U.S. landscapes and they provide vital habitat to a wide array of wildlife species, including greater sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits. However, in recent decades, sagebrush ecosystems have been reduced or degraded by a wide range of disturbances, including human development, overgrazing, severe fires, and encroachment by cheatgrass and pinyon-juniper woodlands. These factors are expected to continue or worsen with anticipated climate change.
To help restore and protect these ecosystems, scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station and elsewhere have utilized research gardens and climate projections to help develop a software tool called the Climate-Smart Restoration Tool. The Tool helps land and resource managers to match seeds with geographic areas, or “seed zones,” under current and projected environmental conditions. In other words, land managers can use the Tool to help guide ecosystem restoration efforts, with a higher likelihood that the restored ecosystems will thrive under expected climate conditions. The Tool features data on sagebrush, with plans to add data for bluebunch wheatgrass and other plants and trees.