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  1. High frequency and spatially explicit irrigated land maps are important for understanding the patterns and impacts of consumptive water use by agriculture. We built annual, 30 m resolution irrigation maps using Google Earth Engine for the years 1986–2018 for 11 western states within the conterminous U.S. Our map classifies lands into four classes: irrigated agriculture, dryland agriculture, uncultivated land, and wetlands. We built an extensive geospatial database of land cover from each class, including over 50,000 human-verified irrigated fields, 38,000 dryland fields, and over 500,000 km 2 of uncultivated lands. We used 60,000 point samples from 28 years to extract Landsat satellite imagery, as well as climate, meteorology, and terrain data to train a Random Forest classifier. Using a spatially independent validation dataset of 40,000 points, we found our classifier has an overall binary classification (irrigated vs. unirrigated) accuracy of 97.8%, and a four-class overall accuracy of 90.8%. We compared our results to Census of Agriculture irrigation estimates over the seven years of available data and found good overall agreement between the 2832 county-level estimates (r 2 = 0.90), and high agreement when estimates are aggregated to the state level (r 2 = 0.94). We analyzed trends over the 33-yearmore »study period, finding an increase of 15% (15,000 km 2 ) in irrigated area in our study region. We found notable decreases in irrigated area in developing urban areas and in the southern Central Valley of California and increases in the plains of eastern Colorado, the Columbia River Basin, the Snake River Plain, and northern California.« less
  2. Woody encroachment is a global driver of grassland loss and management to counteract encroachment represents one of the most expensive conservation practices implemented in grasslands. Yet, outcomes of these practices are often unknown at large scales and this constrains practitioner’s ability to advance conservation. Here, we use new monitoring data to evaluate outcomes of grassland conservation on woody encroachment for Nebraska’s State Wildlife Action Plan, a statewide effort that targets management in Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs) to conserve the state’s natural communities. We tracked woody cover trajectories for BULs and compared BUL trajectories with those in non-priority landscapes (non-BULs) to evaluate statewide and BUL-scale conservation outcomes more than a decade after BUL establishment. Statewide, woody cover increased by 256,653 ha (2.3%) from 2000–2017. Most BULs (71%) experienced unsustainable trends of grassland loss to woody encroachment; however, management appeared to significantly reduce BUL encroachment rates compared to non-BULs. Most BULs with early signs of encroachment lacked control strategies, while only one BUL with moderate levels of encroachment (Loess Canyons) showed evidence of a management-driven stabilization of encroachment. These results identify strategic opportunities for proactive management in grassland conservation and demonstrate how new monitoring technology can support large-scale adaptive management pursuits.
  3. Freckleton, Robert (Ed.)
  4. Abstract Conservationists are increasingly convinced that coproduction of science enhances its utility in policy, decision-making, and practice. Concomitant is a renewed reliance on privately owned working lands to sustain nature and people. We propose a coupling of these emerging trends as a better recipe for conservation. To illustrate this, we present five elements of coproduction, contrast how they differ from traditional approaches, and describe the role of scientists in successful partnerships. Readers will find coproduction more demanding than the loading dock approach to science delivery but will also find greater rewards, relevance, and impact. Because coproduction is novel and examples of it are rare, we draw on our roles as scientists within the US Department of Agriculture–led Sage Grouse Initiative, North America's largest effort to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem. As coproduction and working lands evolve, traditional approaches will be replaced in order to more holistically meet the needs of nature and people.