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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346612

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Title: A strategy for defining the reference for land health and degradation assessments

Author
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Shaver, Pat - Oregon State University
item Pyke, David - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item Pellant, Mike - Bureau Of Land Management
item Toledo, David
item Lepak, Nika - Bureau Of Land Management

Submitted to: Ecological Indicators
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/4/2018
Publication Date: 1/1/2019
Citation: Herrick, J.E., Shaver, P., Pyke, D., Pellant, M., Toledo, D.N., Lepak, N. 2019. A strategy for defining the reference for land health and degradation assessments. Ecological Indicators. 97:225-230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.06.065.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.06.065

Interpretive Summary: The “Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health” (IIRH) assessment protocol has been used in the United States since 1995 at over 30,000 locations. However, the application of IIRH in other countries, and in some areas of the US, has been limited by the requirement for historic reference information that includes the natural range of variability for each indicator across the range of spatial and temporal variation for similar soil and climate combinations (reference conditions). Because this requires both a completed soil survey and development of a “reference sheet” describing reference conditions for each of the 17 indicators, the requirement has limited the application of IIRH in nations or portions of the US where this information does not exist. This paper (1) briefly reviews the conditions under which historic reference information is and is not required to meet management and policy objectives, (2) summarizes current approaches to defining the reference for land health and degradation assessments, and (3) presents a protocol for collecting and organizing data that can be used to define a historic reference, building on the framework and indicators presented in IIRH.

Technical Abstract: Much of the confusion about the definition of reference conditions for land health and degradation assessments is due to differences in policy and management objectives. Selection of a historic reference where it is not necessary, such as in the definition of future land degradation neutrality, can add significant cost and uncertainty to land management projects that require some knowledge of the current status of the land relative to its potential. This paper (1) provides a review of the conditions under which historic reference information is and is not required to meet management and policy objectives, (2) summarizes current approaches to defining the reference for land health and degradation assessments, and (3) presents a protocol, “Describing Indicators of Rangeland Health” (DIRH) for collecting and organizing data that can be used to define a historic reference. This protocol builds on the framework and indicators presented in the “Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health” (IIRH). IIRH uses a combination of scientific and local knowledge to generate soil- and climate-specific assessments of three attributes of land health. It is used in a number of countries. In the United States data are aggregated over 30,000 locations to provide national assessments.