Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 30, 2011
Publication Date: September 19, 2011
Citation: Booth, D.T., Cox, S.E. 2011. Art to science: Tools for greater objectivity in resource monitoring. Rangelands. 33(4):27-34. Interpretive Summary: Rangeland resource monitoring has been hindered by the high cost of conventional methods and by data variation, which often nullifies the value of the measurements. This is primarily the result of not having the right tools to suitability monitor this vast resource and, to the time demands on the people responsible for the tasks. We now have new tools in the form of dependable digital cameras and we have software developed for using the resulting photographs. In this article we review methods to obtain and use digital photographs--including the use of the user-friendly SamplePoint and ImageMeasurement software tools--to highlight how these advances are making resource monitoring more objective and adequate sampling and data acquisition more practical for landscape-scale inventory and monitoring.
Technical Abstract: The earliest inventories of western US rangelands were “ocular” estimates. Now, objective data consistent with formal scientific inquiry is needed to support management decisions that sustain the resource while balancing numerous competing land uses and sometimes-vociferous stakeholders. Yet, the collection of suitable data has been largely impractical due to (1) the variation among observers and through time by single observers, (2) to the high cost of conventional monitoring which limits sampling and produces a high risk of Type II error, and requires the subjective selection of relatively small “representative” sample areas which focus on specific resources rather than ecological systems, and (3) from a lack of scientific rigor in monitoring planning and execution. That rangeland inventory and monitoring are inadequate is primarily the result of technologies unsuited to this vast resource and to the time demands on the people responsible for the tasks. The past decade has produced a number of new tools and methods that promise to improve monitoring methods. The arrival of dependable digital cameras and the development of tools for using the camera and resulting imagery are among the most important of these advances. Here we review the acquisition and use of nadir digital imagery, and SamplePoint and ImageMeasurement software tools, to highlight how these advances are making resource monitoring more objective and adequate sampling and data acquisition more practical for landscape-scale inventory and monitoring.