In the Northern Great Plains (NGP), the combined impacts of land-use and climate variability have the potential to place many soils on the tipping point of sustainability. The objectives of this study were to assess if the conversion of grassland to croplands occurred on fragile landscapes in the North America Northern Great Plains. South Dakota and Nebraska were selected for this study because they are located in a climate transition zone. We visually classified 43,200 and 38,400 points in South Dakota and Nebraska, respectively, from high-resolution imagery in 2006, 2012, and 2014 into five different categories (cropland, grassland, habitat, NonAg, and water). The sustainability risk of the land-use changes was assessed based on the land capability class (LCC) scores at the selected sites. Sites with LCC scores ≤ 4 are considered sustainable for crop production if appropriate management practices are followed. Scores ≥ 6 are not considered suitable for row crop production. From 2006 to 2014, 910,000 and 360,000 ha of land were converted from grassland to cropland in South Dakota and Nebraska, respectively. Approximately 92 and 80% of the grassland conversion to croplands occurred on land suitable for crop production (land capability class, LCC ≤ 4) in South Dakota and Nebraska, respectively.
Part of the book: Land Use Change and Sustainability