Rangeland Ecology & Management

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An Online Toolkit for Managing Shrub Encroachment
Shrub encroachment on rolling grasslands. Photo credit Austin Rutherford
Project Funder
USDA-NIFA Renewable Resources Extension Act (2020-2022)
Shrub encroachment and the interventions taken to reduce shrub cover (‘brush management’) are critical areas of concern for land managers and producers in rangelands across the Great Plains and the western US. We propose to bring together research and outreach to begin construction of a practical, user-guided, web-based ‘toolkit’ for determining best options and opportunities for managing undesirable woody weeds. We will leverage the existing DroughtView web application to take the first steps in designing a decision support tool while formulating new brush management decision-making resources, collectively called the ‘toolkit’. Our development process will incorporate guidance from stakeholders with past and on-going research projects that identify climate-plant-soil-treatment factors determining shrub invasion risk and options for containment. These factors will be compiled into descriptions and management decision-trees. An iterative, phased design and development approach will package research information into an online, user-friendly interface and repository to provide step-by-step guides for decision-making. Primary project objectives include: (1) synthesizing research on controls over and constraints to shrub encroachment and the efficacy of brush management; (2) compiling local/regional stakeholder knowledge and input for use in toolkit design through iterative feedback; (3) broadening existing brush management online resources to build the prototypic toolkit with research/management information for open stakeholder access; and (4) developing a framework for land managers and Extension educators to guide and enhance future toolkit functionality, relevance, and usability. The web-based toolkit will substantively expand the online presence of land grant university Extension, while promoting sustainable rangeland ecosystem management.