Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2010
Publication Date: 12/15/2010
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/58380
Citation: Karl, J.W., Herrick, J.E. 2010. Monitoring and assessment based on ecological sites. Rangelands. 32(6):60-64. Interpretive Summary: Ecological sites are areas of similar soils and climate that support the same kinds and amounts of vegetation. While the concept of ecological sites has been useful in developing theories of how and why rangeland ecosystems change over time in response to disturbance and management, the concept also has great practical value for rangeland monitoring and assessment. Ecological sites, embodied by the NRCS ecological site description, provide a standard reference for managers to know what kinds of changes to expect in response to management or disturbance so that appropriate indicators of change may be selected. Also, the ecological site description contains information on expected conditions of the different vegetation communities within the ecological sites. This provides a standard reference for interpretation of monitoring and assessment data. Additionally, there are other practical benefits to using ecological sites as a basis for designing programs, collecting and analyzing data for rangeland monitoring and assessment. This paper describes a framework for rangeland monitoring and assessment based on ecological sites and gives examples of how it can be implemented.
Technical Abstract: The importance of monitoring and assessment of rangeland systems is generally accepted, but the importance and benefits of monitoring based on a foundation of ecological site potential is less well understood. The concept of ecological sites and their current implementation via NRCS ecological site descriptions and associated GIS spatial data layers provides a robust and scalable framework for rangeland monitoring and assessment. An ecological site provides a standard reference for land management, research and monitoring. The ecological site description informs managers as to what kinds of changes can be expected in response to management or disturbance and provides a reference for the interpretation of monitoring and assessment data. In addition, there are many practical uses of ecological sites for designing programs and collecting and analyzing data for rangeland monitoring and assessment. In this paper we describe a monitoring and assessment framework based on ecological sites and present examples for several current and potential applications of ecological sites to rangeland monitoring and assessment.