This document presents a long-term research strategy designed to address current and future research needs for management of Department of the Interior-administered ecosystems in the Intermountain West. Although the research plan was developed in the context of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, the plan addresses many high-priority issues facing land managers throughout the Intermountain West. These issues pose management challenges that may be addressed with applied research both currently and in upcoming decades. Possessing a particular focus on semiarid ecosystems, the plan is a collection of research questions under five categories of research emphases: 1) restoration; 2) rangeland health; 3) aquatic-terrestrial connections; 4) development of monitoring and evaluation protocols; and 5) species and habitats at risk.
The goal of the research strategy is to provide ideas for integrating emerging scientific understanding into future management in order to restore and maintain long-term ecosystem health and ecological integrity; provide consistent management direction over broad spatial and temporal scales; emphasize adaptive management over the long term; restore and maintain habitats for plant and animal species; and support economic and social needs of people, without compromising the above goals. Research questions are prioritized into three categories based on the immediacy of their need, feasibility of addressing the question rigorously under varying funding budgets, and magnitude of risk posed by not addressing the issue. The research strategy is intended to support and integrate with existing management efforts and strategies. As such, it melds observational studies with experimental manipulation, treating management actions as experiments whenever feasible.
The research strategy focuses on disturbance processes and events that have been the primary drivers of change, to provide a predictive model for future changes. These drivers include fire, nonnative plants, herbivory, roads and associated human influences, and climate change. Whereas management in the western United States has striven to move from an inefficient species-based approach to a habitat-based approach, the plan focuses on ecosystem function and ecological processes as critical measures of habitat response. Because of the large amount and contiguity of public lands in the western United States, the region presents both a compelling opportunity to implement landscape-level science and a challenge to underst
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