Natural Resource Conservation Service Range Planting — Conservation Practice Standards provide guidelines for making decisions about seedbed preparation, planting methods, plant materials selection, seeding rate, seeding depth, timing of seeding, postplanting management, and weed control. Adoption of these standards is expected to contribute to successful improvement of vegetation composition and productivity of grazed plant communities. Also expected are some specific conservation effects, such as improved forage for livestock; improved forage, browse, or cover for wildlife; improved water quality and quantity; reduced wind or water erosion; and increased carbon sequestration. The success of specific conservation practices and the magnitude of conservation effects are highly dependent on ecological-site characteristics, the initial degree of deviation from desired site characteristics, and weather, all of which are highly variable in both time and space. Previous research has produced few studies directly linking range planting conservation practices to conservation effects. Assessment of conservation effects attributed to rangeland planting practices must, therefore, be separated into two components: 1) evidence of the degree to which specific management practices have been shown to result in desirable vegetation change and 2) evidence supporting positive conservation effects of alternative vegetation states. The aggregate literature generally supports both 1) the existing conservation practice recommendations for rangeland seeding and 2) the inherent assumption that if these practices are successful, they will result in beneficial conservation effects. High spatial and temporal variability in these systems, however, may limit the success of generic or prescriptive management practices. Current conservation practice recommendations could be improved by incorporating more direct linkages to the ecologically based technical literature, more up-to-date information on adaptive management strategies in highly variable rangeland systems, and integration of monitoring strategies designed to directly test the efficacy of specific conservation practices.
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Vol. 69 • No. 4