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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320543

Research Project: New Technologies to Enhance Sustainability of Northern Great Plains Grasslands

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: An integrated grazingland assessment approach for range and pasturelands

Author
item Toledo, David
item Sanderson, Matt
item Goslee, Sarah
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Fults, Gene - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/6/2016
Publication Date: 11/1/2016
Citation: Toledo, D.N., Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Herrick, J.E., Fults, G. 2016. An integrated grazingland assessment approach for range and pasturelands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71(6):450-459.

Interpretive Summary: There is a need for an improved grazingland assessment tool that merges elements of both the Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) and Pasture Condition Scoring (PCS) assessment methods while taking into account the differing ecosystem attributes and management objectives of the grazinglands where these methods are usually applied. We use IIRH and PCS data collected at two locations in the Northern Great Plains of the USA to describe an improved assessment and monitoring protocol that allows evaluators to assess site conditions and to make interpretations regarding management based on site-specific attributes. This new approach, combined with proper adaptive management can potentially help optimize the ecological potential and livestock carrying capacity of a site.

Technical Abstract: In the USA, rangelands and pasturelands have traditionally been assessed using different methods and indicators. The most commonly used rangeland health assessment protocol on US rangelands is the Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) assessment, while pasturelands are usually assessed using the Pasture Condition Score (PCS) system. The IIRH method provides a way of detecting changes in ecological attributes relative to a site's ecological potential. PCS informs managers about the utility of an area for livestock production or factors that could be keeping the area from operating at its full or optimized productive potential. There is a need for an improved grazingland assessment tool that merges the relevant elements of both the rangeland and pastureland assessment methods while taking into account the differing ecosystem attributes and management objectives of the grazinglands where these methods are usually applied. We use IIRH and PCS data collected at two locations in the Northern Great Plains of the USA to describe our approach and demonstrate its usefulness. We present an improved grazingland assessment protocol that is applicable to range and pasturelands that highlights the complementarity of the IIRH and PCS approaches. This improved assessment and monitoring protocol allows evaluators to assess site conditions, and to make interpretations regarding management based on site-specific attributes that can potentially optimize the ecological potential and livestock carrying capacity of a site. Standardized grazingland assessment and monitoring protocols based on ecological and land management principles will ultimately improve National level assessments and will provide a valuable and efficient tool for land managers to assess, plan, manage and monitor their land.