Submitted to: Proceedings Water Environment Ecology Socio-Economics and Health Engineeri
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: October 18, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Worldwide, rangelands make up about 40% of all land areas. In the United States rangelands and pastures make up more than half of the land area. Increased emphasis on conservation, management, and sustainable use of rangeland resources in the United States has led to the need for new applications of science for assessing rangeland health. Rangeland health is the degree to which rangeland ecosystems are sustainable under current and alternative land use and management practices. Assessments of rangeland health are based on three major components, soil/site stability, nutrient/energy cycling, and plant recovery mechanisms. Currently, a project is underway to improve the soil/site stability component. A simulation model is available to quantify soil erosion and sediment yield along hillslopes. Soil erosion and sediment yield can provide an indication of the health of rangelands with respect to the soil. An important part of the project is that it will be Internet based. Data collected in the field will be entered into a database via a website. The simulation model will run and output will be displayed within the same website. In addition, expert knowledge and experience will be incorporated in the website and will be used to interpret field data and observations, and simulation model output, to make assessments of rangeland health at sites in the US.
Technical Abstract: Increased emphasis on conservation, management, and sustainable use of rangeland resources in the United States has led to the need for new technology for assessing rangeland health. Rangeland health is the degree to which rangeland ecosystems are sustainable under current and alternative land use and management practices. The concept of assessing the health of rangelands has replaced traditional assessment based on range condition. The new concept requires new technology to assess soil/site stability, nutrient/energy cycling, and plant recovery mechanisms. Currently, a project is underway to improve soil/site stability assessment using a distributed soil erosion and sediment yield simulation model. Information systems technology is used to focus database design and development, data collection and processing, development and management of knowledge bases, simulation of soil erosion and sediment yield, interpretation of sediment yield estimates, and knowledge-based determination of rangeland health. An Internet-based system has been developed to access data, information, knowledge, simulation models, and evaluation criteria to assess rangeland health. An example application, focusing on the Great Plains of the United States, is presented to illustrate the use of information systems technology to assess rangeland health.