Adapting to Climate Change on Western Public Lands: Addressing the Ecological Effects of Domestic, Wild, and Feral Ungulates

Environmental Management, Nov. 2012

18 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2012

See all articles by Robert Beschta

Robert Beschta

Oregon State University - Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society

Debra L. Donahue

University of Wyoming - College of Law

Dominick DellaSala

Independent

Jonathan J. Rhodes

Planeto Azul Hydrology

James Karr James Karr

University of Washington

Mary O'Brien

Grand Canyon Trust

Thomas Fleischner

Prescott College - Environmental Studies

Cindy Williams

Environmental Consultants

Date Written: January 27, 2012

Abstract

Climate change affects public land ecosystems and services throughout the American West and these effects are projected to intensify. Even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, adaptation strategies for public lands are needed to reduce anthropogenic stressors of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to help native species and ecosystems survive in an altered environment. Historical and contemporary livestock production — the most widespread and long-running commercial use of public lands — can alter vegetation, soils, hydrology, and wildlife species composition and abundances in ways that exacerbate the effects of climate change on these resources. Excess abundance of native ungulates (e.g., deer or elk) and feral horses and burros add to these impacts. Although many of these consequences have been studied for decades, the ongoing and impending effects of ungulates in a changing climate require new management strategies for limiting their threats to the long-term supply of ecosystem services on public lands. Removing or reducing livestock across large areas of public land would alleviate a widely recognized and long-term stressor and make these lands less susceptible to the effects of climate change. Where livestock use continues, or where significant densities of wild or feral ungulates occur, management should carefully document the ecological, social, and economic consequences (both costs and benefits) to better ensure management that minimizes ungulate impacts to plant and animal communities, soils, and water resources. Reestablishing apex predators in large, contiguous areas of public land may help mitigate any adverse ecological effects of wild ungulates.

Keywords: Ungulates, Climate change, Ecosystems

Suggested Citation

Beschta, Robert and Donahue, Debra L. and DellaSala, Dominick and Rhodes, Jonathan J. and Karr, James R. and O'Brien, Mary and Fleischner, Thomas and Williams, Cindy, Adapting to Climate Change on Western Public Lands: Addressing the Ecological Effects of Domestic, Wild, and Feral Ungulates (January 27, 2012). Environmental Management, Nov. 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2181502

Robert Beschta

Oregon State University - Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society ( email )

321 Richardson Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

Debra L. Donahue (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

Dominick DellaSala

Independent

No Address Available

Jonathan J. Rhodes

Planeto Azul Hydrology

P.O. Box 15286
Portland, OR 97293
United States

James R. Karr

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States
206-685-4784 (Phone)

Mary O'Brien

Grand Canyon Trust

2601 North Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
United States

Thomas Fleischner

Prescott College - Environmental Studies

220 Grove Avenue
Prescott, AZ 86301
United States

Cindy Williams

Environmental Consultants

4393 Pioneer Road
Medford, OR 97501
United States

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