Community-based rangeland restoration in Southwestern Colorado

Land degradation is a major challenge in many arid and semi-arid rangelands. There is a widespread need for restoration and climate-adaptive management that promotes ecological functioning, sustainability, and livelihoods in these systems. This study will partner with RestoreNet, a co-produced networked dryland restoration project that works with local land managers to systematically test restoration techniques across dry rangelands of the western US. In 2021, in partnership with a group of Southwestern Colorado stakeholders including ranchers in Montezuma and Dolores counties, the Bureau of Land Management, USDA-NRCS, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, we established two RestoreNet sites. Research at these sites will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of restoration techniques including application of native seed mixes, biochar, compost, mulch, and super-absorbent polymer beads to increase native plant cover, soil health, and ecosystem functioning. This year, we will collect seedling recruitment data from plots to explore differences in treatment success in promoting early restoration outcomes and communicate findings to our partners.

Goal: The intern will work with an interdisciplinary group of scientists, Extension specialists, and stakeholders to:
• Objective 1: Conduct seedling recruitment data from restoration field plots to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration treatments.
• Objective 2: Organize and analyze seedling recruitment data from year 1 of the project to explore differences in treatment success in promoting early restoration outcomes.
• Objective 3: Communicate finings to Colorado RestoreNet partners in a variety of formats including a conference poster, project video, social media posts, and Extension-style fact sheets.

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