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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems

A wildfire burning through a Wyoming big sagebrush community with the invasive annual grass, cheatgrass, in the understory.  These types of communities have low resilience or recovery potential (photo by Doug Shinneman)

Resilience science - key to effective restoration of imperiled sagebrush ecosystems

Conservation efforts are underway across the western U.S. to reduce threats to Greater Sage-grouse and the sagebrush ecosystems on which they depend.
Greater sage-grouse

Research on resilience of sagebrush ecosystems improves sage-grouse habitat

Plant genetics reveals critical steps in restoration. This research focuses on ecological genetics of sagebrush, which is under threat principally from wildfire and exotic weed encroachment.

A new look at the race for survival: cheatgrass biocontrol with “black fingers of death”

Cheatgrass is one of the most destructive plant invaders in the West with significant economic and ecological impacts on rangelands and agricultural lands. The seed pathogen "black fingers of death" is a promising tool under consideration for biocontrol of cheatgrass.
Controlled burn in Chihuahuan Desert grassland at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. Photo credit: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Climate Change impacts future carbon stores

We present a summary of studies that focus on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide through enhanced terrestrial carbon storage to determine if common trends exist that can be utilized in management.
capturing floral scents

Pollinators are affected by drought stress

We examined how drought, which is predicted to increase in the Western United States due to climate change, affected floral odors and pollinator attraction in four plant species in Montana.

The Grassland, Shrubland, and Desert Ecosystems (GSD) program investigates the biology, use, management, and restoration of grasses and shrublands. Scientists, professional technicians, and support staff with the GSD Program develop and deliver scientific knowledge, technology and tools that will enable people to sustain and restore grasslands, shrublands, and deserts under increasing threats from expanding human-related uses, invasive species, changing disturbance patterns, and climate changes.

In 2001 GSD and the Bureau of Land Management initiated the multi-state Great Basin Native Plant Project. Now with over 25 collaborators, the project continues to improve the availability of native plant materials and to provide the knowledge and technology required for their use in restoring diverse native plant communities across the Great Basin.

Members of the GSD Program are located at seven laboratories in six states in the intermountain West (Provo, UT and Reno, NV), Rocky Mountains (Boise and Moscow, ID), northern Great Plains (Bozeman, MT and Rapid City, SD), and American Southwest (Albuquerque, NM).

Learn more about the GSD Program in their research updates: