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Ecological Site Descriptions
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US Interagency Ecological Site Description handbook published

A new handbook describing the process of ecological site description development was released this month by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service. In 2010, these three agencies signed a Rangeland Interagency Ecological Site Manual to advance ecological site classification as a means to improve their ability to manage the landscape in a coordinated manner across ownership and jurisdictional boundaries. Ecological sites classify land areas according to their potential vegetation and responses to disturbance. Ecological site descriptions house information about the ecosystem services provided by ecological sites and their ecological dynamics, indicators of ecosystem change, and best management practices via state-and-transition models. The publication of the handbook in 2013 effectively links a unified set ecological concepts and methodological approaches to the land management activities of three major federal agencies. Concerted development and refinement of a national ecological site classification system will improve our nation's ability to harvest and deliver knowledge to improve adaptive management in rangelands, croplands, and forests. Download the Interagency Ecological Site Handbook for Rangelands here, or go to



 Ecological sites comprise a land classification system that describes ecological potential and ecosystem dynamics of land areas. They are used to stratify the landscape and organize ecological information for purposes of monitoring, assessment, and management. This page provides some definitions for ecological site descriptions (ESDs) and provides tools and literature pertaining to their development. A comprehensive guidance document for ESD development for the United States is being produced via cooperation of responsible federal agencies and is an active area of research at the Jornada Experimental Range. There are many ways ESD concepts can be developed and applied outside of the United States. Explore the ESD links further for more information or see this link for a printable summary sheet. printable summary sheet