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Hold Your Ground: Threats to Soil Function in Northern Great Plains Grazing Lands

Liebig, Mark A., Toledo, David
Rangelands 2019 v.41 no.1 pp. 17-22
acidification, adaptive management, botanical composition, climate, conservation practices, ecosystem services, energy, forage, grazing, grazing lands, land use, rangelands, soil, soil erosion, soil organic matter, soil quality, vegetation cover, Great Plains region, North America
Many soils throughout the northern Great Plains (NGP) of North America possess attributes that support the successful delivery of multiple ecosystem services from grazing lands. Anticipated changes in climate and land use in the region, however, suggest delivery of these services could be compromised in the future because of an increase in threats to soil function. These threats include soil organic matter decline, reduced physical stability, soil erosion, compaction, localized nutrient accumulation, acidification, and salinization. Adaptive management to conserve existing soil functions in grazing lands is necessary and includes: 1) judicious management of forage resources, 2) strategic application of management to modify vegetation composition or soil conditions, and 3) use of restoration and conservation practices known to maintain vegetation cover and protect soil. Management approaches to conserve soil functions in NGP grazing lands will likely require considerable adaptive capacity by land managers. Successful application of management will require timely information about soil and vegetation conditions to guide land-use decisions.