Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/21/2008
Publication Date: 8/20/2008
Citation: Brown, J.R., Bestelmeyer, B.T. 2008. Resolving critical issues for the development of ecological site descriptions: Summary of a symposium. Rangelands. 30(4):16-18.
Interpretive Summary: The effort of rangeland scientists and managers in implementing Ecological Site Descriptions over the past decade has contributed greatly to the development of new tools for management. The information generated and the lessons learned have both enlightened the process and created many challenges. However, a more coordinated and systematic approach is necessary. Expanding the ecological and social basis for ESDs to include other types of land (forests, woodlands, shifting cultivation), other users (nature conservation, small landowners, low density development, policymakers) and other driving factors (climate change, invasive species, land use patterns) changes both the language and landscape. Providing a credible and transparent system with utility for all uses and users will require a more rigorous science and a more inclusive sociology.
Technical Abstract: The concepts, methods and procedures for describing rangelands help define the profession of range management. None of these is more important than the system for dividing rangelands into spatially distinct units for the purpose of classifying and managing. Range Sites and Range Condition and the ecological concepts on which they were based dominated research, policy and application virtually from the time SRM was formed (1948) until the late 1990s. In 1997, the revised version of the NRCS Range and Pasture Handbook first referred to Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) and gave basic guidance on definitions and procedures for implementation. The change from Range Sites to Ecological Sites is representative of two important changes in the profession: the incorporation of nonequilibrium ecology to describe rangeland dynamics in some ecosystems and the expansion of the array of ecosystem services provided by all rangelands.