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Open-File Report 2015–1003

In cooperation with Bureau of Land Management

Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment—Pre-Assessment Report

Edited by Timothy J. Assal, Cynthia P. Melcher, and Natasha B. Carr

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (19.6 MB)Summary

The purpose of the Pre-Assessment Report for the Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (REA) is to document the selection process for and final list of Conservation Elements, Change Agents, and Management Questions developed during Phase I. The overall goal of the REAs being conducted for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is to provide information that supports regional planning and analysis for the management of ecological resources. The REA provides an assessment of baseline ecological conditions, an evaluation of current risks from drivers of ecosystem change, and a predictive capacity for evaluating future risks. The REA also may be used for identifying priority areas for conservation or restoration and for assessing the cumulative effects of a variety of land uses. There are several components of the REAs. Management Questions, developed by the BLM and partners for the ecoregion, identify the information needed for addressing land-management responsibilities. Conservation Elements represent regionally significant terrestrial and aquatic species and communities that are to be conserved and (or) restored. For each Conservation Element, key ecological attributes will be evaluated to determine the status of each species and community. The REA also will evaluate major drivers of ecosystem change, or Change Agents, currently affecting or likely to affect the status of Conservation Elements in the future. The relationships between Change Agents and key ecological attributes will be summarized using conceptual models. The REA process is a two-phase process. Phase I (pre-assessment) includes developing and finalizing the lists of priority Management Questions, Conservation Elements, and Change Agents, culminating in the REA Pre-Assessment Report.

Chapter 1 provides an overview of the REA process. Chapter 2 describes the biophysical and anthropogenic features of the Southern Great Plains, and Chapter 3 explains the process used to identify Conservation Elements, Change Agents and Management Questionss. The remaining chapters each feature one of 19 Conservation Elements—6 ecological communities and 13 species (including 2 species assemblages)—to be addressed in Phase II. For each Conservation Element, we will address the four primary Change Agents—development, fire, invasive species, and climate change—required for the REA. In addition, we will evaluate insect pests and disease for particular Conservation Elements. Development includes effects related to energy and infrastructure, agricultural activities, and other human activities, including urbanization and recreation.

An overview on the ecology and management issues for each Conservation Element is provided, including distribution and ecology, landscape structure and dynamics, and associated species of management concern affiliated with each Conservation Element. For each Conservation Element, effects of the Change Agents are described. An overview of potential key ecological attributes and potential Change Agents are summarized by conceptual models and tables. The tables provide an organizational framework and background information for evaluating the key ecological attributes and Change Agents in Phase II.

First posted April 22, 2015

For additional information contact:
Director, Fort Collins Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C
Fort Collins, CO 80526–8118

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Suggested citation:

Assal, T.J., Melcher, C.P., and Carr, N.B., eds., 2015, Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment—Pre-assessment report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1003, 284 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)


Contributing Authors


Executive Summary

Section I. Southern Great Plains Ecoregional Assessment—Background and Overview

Chapter 1. Introduction—Bureau of Land Management Rapid Ecoregional Assessments

Chapter 2. Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment Overview

Chapter 3. Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment

Section II. Conservation Elements

Chapter 4. Mixed-Grass Prairie

Chapter 5. Shortgrass Prairie

Chapter 6. Riparian Areas and Wetlands

Chapter 7. Playas and Saline Lakes

Chapter 8. Lakes and Reservoirs

Chapter 9. Prairie Streams and Rivers

Chapter 10. Freshwater Mussels Species Assemblage

Chapter 11. Arkansas River Shiner

Chapter 12. Burrowing Owl

Chapter 13. Ferruginous Hawk

Chapter 14. Interior Least Tern

Chapter 15. Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Chapter 16. Long-Billed Curlew

Chapter 17. Mountain Plover

Chapter 18. Snowy Plover

Chapter 19. Bat Species Assemblage

Chapter 20. Black-Tailed Prairie Dog

Chapter 21. Mule Deer

Chapter 22. Swift Fox

Appendix A. Documentation of Selection Process: Candidate Conservation Elements

Appendix B. Preliminary Management Question Matrix

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