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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Using State-and-Transition Models: Tools for Prophylaxis, Diagnosis, Or Autopsy?

Authors
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item Brown, Joel - USDA-NRCS
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Smith, Philip - DOI-BLM
item Havstad, Kris

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2003
Publication Date: February 1, 2003
Citation: Bestelmeyer, B.T., Brown, J.R., Herrick, J.E., Smith, P.L., Havstad, K.M. 2003. Using state-and-transition models: tools for prophylaxis, diagnosis, or autopsy [abstract]? 56th Annual Meeting, Society for Range Management. February 1-6, 2003, Casper, Wyoming. p. 16.

Technical Abstract: As range managers and ecologists proceed with creating state-and-transition models, it is important to ask how they can be used to maintain rangeland health. We explore this question by examining how the Bureau of Land Management has used models, and by considering field studies of transitions in New Mexico. Models are often used in a 'post-mortem' fashion to explain the existence of degraded states. It is difficult, however, to identify the ultimate causes of degradation. Another challenge is to identify indicators in models that can be used to alert managers to the initial stages of degradation and to guide management changes. This difficulty is illustrated by cases in which healthy-looking landscapes degrade without continued human impacts. In other cases, landscapes that exhibit clear warnings of an impending transition recover without grazing adjustments. A promising use of state-and-transition models is to illustrate how within- and among site variability in topography and inherent soil properties (e.g. texture and depth) predispose sites to transitions. In this application, emphasis is placed on the relative risks of an undesired transition associated with landscape position, soil properties and regional climate characteristics. Unrecorded, unpredictable, and interacting variables (such as climate and species introductions) restrict our ability to correctly interpret and predict transitions. Nonetheless, state-and-transition models provide a basis for prediction, management action, and tests of concepts. We will discuss research approaches to addressing the various uses of state-and-transition models.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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