Invasive species are predominantly annual grasses that aggressively displace native perennial grasses, fostering frequent and destructive fires, and posing a serious and growing threat to western rangeland.
Annual grasses also dramatically reduce plant diversity and richness; reduce suitable habitat for wildlife; reduce livestock forage by 50-80%; accelerate erosion; and pose a serious risk to human life by promoting out-of-control wildfires, often near urban areas. Due to these problems, there is an acute need to check and reverse the spread of these invasive species.
Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service have developed a “systems approach” to managing and reversing the spread of various invasive species.
Known as ecologically based invasive plant management (EBIPM), this approach is comprised of a decision-support system that assesses the health of rangeland to identify causes of invasion, identifies ecological processes in need of repair, proposes ecological principles as “rules of thumb” for altering the ecological processes to correct those in need of repair, allows land managers to select and integrate tools and strategies to alter the appropriate ecological processes, and allows the implementation of adaptive management. The area-wide project for EBIPM of invasive annual grasses is on track to transform the previously accepted management of western rangelands.
Another 2.5 million acres have been indirectly impacted through the use of EBIPM strategies to manage these species.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 3,000 producers and land managers to date have been directly impacted through training or delivery of EBIPM products. Another 8,000 to 12,000 have experienced some indirect impact as a result of EBIPM information distributed through print or video media. Research and demonstration projects in a five-state region have had a direct impact on invasive annual grass management of 500,000 acres.
Another 2.5 million acres have been indirectly impacted through the use of EBIPM strategies to manage these species. This impact will only continue to exponentially increase as the program reaches expanded audiences. The value of improved management to producers across 20 years is projected to be more than $168 million.