Submitted to: Invasive Plant Science and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/12/2011
Publication Date: 7/1/2011
Citation: Sheley, R.L., James, J.J., Vasquez, E.A., Svejcar, A.J. 2011. Using rangeland health assessment to inform successional management. Journal of Invasive Plant Science and Management. 4(3):356-366.
Interpretive Summary: Rangeland health assessments provide valuable information about the ecological condition of rangeland. However, these data are not directly used to help land managers make decisions about appropriate management. We provided a method for linking data from the currently used rangeland health assessment to a management decision-making framework that allows managers to plan ecologically-based management programs. This new method uses assessment information to identify the main causes of vegetation change and links those causes to ecological processes that are likely directing change, and thus, in need of modification. This linkage enhances the usefulness of both systems and improves the decision-making process.
Technical Abstract: Rangeland health assessment provides qualitative information on ecosystem attributes. Successional management is a conceptual framework that allows managers to link information gathered in rangeland health assessment to ecological processes that need to be repaired to allow vegetation to change in a favorable direction. The objective of this forum is to detail how these two endeavors can be integrated to form a holistic vegetation management framework. The Rangeland Health Assessment procedures described by Pyke et al. (2002) and Pellant (2005) are currently being adopted by land managers across the western US. Seventeen standard indicators were selected to represent various ecological aspects of ecosystem health. Each of the indicators is rated from extreme to no (slight) departure from the Ecological Site Description and/or the Reference Area(s). Successional management identifies three general drivers of plant community change; site availability, species availability, and species performance, as well as specific ecological processes influencing these drivers. In this forum, we propose and provide examples of a method to link the information collected in rangeland health assessment to the successional management framework. Thus, this method not only allows managers to quantify a point-in-time indication of rangeland health but also allows managers to use this information to decide how various management options may influence vegetation trajectories. We argue that integrating the Rangeland Health Assessment with Successional Management enhances the usefulness of both systems and provides synergistic value to the decision-making process.