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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #298926

Title: A new landscape classification system for monitoring and assessment of pastures

item Goslee, Sarah
item Sanderson, Matt
item SPAETH, KENNETH - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item OGLES, KEVIN - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/20/2013
Publication Date: 1/1/2014
Citation: Goslee, S.C., Sanderson, M.A., Spaeth, K., Herrick, J.E., Ogles, K. 2014. A new landscape classification system for monitoring and assessment of pastures. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 69:17A-21A.

Interpretive Summary: Grouping pastures with similar climates, soils, and topography is a crucial basis for improving monitoring and management. An ecologically-based classification has been developed for rangeland sites, but the current approach used in pastures is largely qualitative, and not always applied consistently across regions. The wide availability of geographic data and the development of new classification methods now make it possible to create a classification system for pasture sites that is based on quantitative data and ecological principles. This new system makes it possible to consistently and systematically relate pasture sites to alternative management options at both the farm and regional scales. This classification system will serve as one component of an integrated management pasture strategy.

Technical Abstract: Pasturelands in the United States span a broad range of climate, soils, physical sites, and management. Rather than treat each site as a unique entity, this diversity must be classified into basic units for research and management purposes. A similar system based on ecological principles is needed for temperate semiarid to subhumid to humid areas. Forage suitability groups (FSG; a system based on soil types) offer one approach for doing so, but are heavily based on expert opinion and management regime. A quantitative scientifically-based system like the ecological site description scheme (ESD) used in rangelands would provide a uniform approach to assessing all grazing lands, allow the identification of reference states for monitoring and assessment, and facilitate the creation of state and transition models suitable for pasture systems. We propose a new system based on a probabilistic hierarchical classification of ecologically-relevant climatic, topographic and edaphic variables, which will provide continuity in assessing ecological services across a broad spectrum of grazing lands.