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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)
You are here: Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems / Research by Project / Salt-Desert Shrubland Stability

Salt-Desert Shrubland Stability

Project Title

Salt-Desert Shrubland Stability as Affected by Livestock Grazing, Invasive Weeds and Climate Variability


Temperate deserts (also known as cold-deserts) occupy a large portion of the intermountain landscapes of western North America and are primarily associated with the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau and Wyoming Basin Ecoregions. Temperate deserts also occupy large expanses in Asia. Climate is characterized by cold winters, warm summers and low mean annual precipitation (< 200 mm) that may vary widely at seasonal, yearly and decadal scales. Salt-desert plant communities are associated with climatically and physiologically (salty) dry soils and constitute a primary subdivision of the temperate desert classification. Although salt-desert plant communities are dominated by shrubs, sub-shrubs and perennial grasses, a diversity of forbs contribute substantially to floristic biodiversity. Salt-deserts provide a variety of ecosystem services (e.g. wildlife habitat) and have received widespread use as open-range for domestic livestock for 130+ years. Existing and emerging threats include: livestock mismanagement; invasive introduced weeds; climate change; altered fire regimes; and surface disturbance from mining, energy development and recreational activities. This research project includes efforts by multiple agency and university collaborators that investigate long-term interacting effects of livestock grazing, invasive weeds and climate variability on salt-desert shrubland stability. Currently, individual studies include:

  • climate effects on plant productivity;
  • impact of livestock grazing on biodiversity;
  • mechanism of invasion and dominance by the introduced annual Halogeton glomeratus;
  • strategies for restoration of degraded salt-desert communities.

Selected Publications

Long-term livestock grazing practices
Stan Kitchen, USDA FS
Long-term livestock grazing practices can lead to changes in plant community composition and structure. This fence separates two areas used by domestic sheep at high (left) and moderate (right) grazing intensities. The picture reveals an unmistakable impact on black sagebrush, a preferred forage species

GSD Principal Investigators

Kitchen, Stanley    Research Botanist    801-356-5108

Cooperators and Sponsors

Jeff J Duda, USGS BRD Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle WA
Susan Moran, USDA ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, Tucson AZ
Christo Morris, USDA ARS Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, Reno, NV
Russell J Rodriguez, USGS BRD Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle WA
Barbara Wachocki, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Related Links

Desert Experimental Range

Cattle grazing
Ralph Holmgren, USDA FS
Cattle and sheep are typically able to meet fall-to-spring nutritional requirements on good condition salt-desert rangelands.