A longer growing season with climate change is expected to increase net primary productivity of many rangeland types, especially those dominated by grasses, although responses will depend on local climate and soil conditions. Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide may increase water use efficiency and productivity of some species. In many cases, increasing wildfire frequency and extent will be damaging for big sagebrush and other shrub species that are readily killed by fire. The widespread occurrence of cheatgrass and other nonnatives facilitates frequent fire through annual fuel accumulation. Shrub species that sprout following fire may be quite resilient to increased disturbance, but may be outcompeted by more drought tolerant species over time.
Adaptation strategies for rangeland vegetation focus on increasing resilience of rangeland ecosystems, primarily through non-native species control and prevention. Ecologically based non-native plant management focuses on strategies to repair damaged ecological processes that facilitate invasion, and seeding of desired natives can be done where seed availability and dispersal of natives are low. Proactive management to prevent establishment of non-native species is also critical (early detection-rapid response), including tactics such as weed-free policies, education of employees and the public, and collaboration among multiple agencies to control weeds. Livestock grazing can also be managed through the development of site-specific indicators that inform livestock movement guides and allow for maintenance and enhancement of plant health.
Reeves, Matt C.; Manning, Mary E.; DiBenedetto, Jeff P.; Palmquist, Kyle A.; Lauenroth, William K.; Bradford, John B.; Schlaepfer, Daniel R. 2018. Effects of climate change on rangeland vegetation in the northern Rockies [Chapter 6]. In: Halofsky Jessica; Peterson David L., eds. Climate Change and Rocky Mountain Ecosystems. Advances in Global Change Research, Vol. 63. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature. p. 97-114.