Location: Range Management ResearchTitle: Applying ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to a grazed riparian rangeland
|RATCLIFF, FELIX - University Of California|
|BARTOLOME, JAMES - University Of California|
|MACAULAY, LUKE - University Of California|
|WHITE, MICHAEL - Non ARS Employee|
Submitted to: Ecology and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/27/2018
Publication Date: 4/19/2018
Citation: Ratcliff, F., Bartolome, J.W., Macaulay, L., Spiegal, S.A., White, M.D. 2018. Applying ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to a grazed riparian rangeland. Ecology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4057.
Interpretive Summary: Ecological site descriptions and state-and-transition models are regarded as useful organizing frameworks for understanding and predicting the patterns and processes of upland rangelands. These models have been extensively developed for upland rangelands in the United States, but only recently has attention been given to developing them for riparian systems. In grazed riparian rangeland in Mediterranean-climate southern California (15 stream reaches over 4 years), we evaluated whether ecological site and state-and-transition models can be used to classify riparian vegetation assemblages and develop hypotheses about their relationships to environmental variables. We also identified optimal parameters needed to classify riparian ecological sites in Mediterranean rangeland riparian systems. Ecological site and state-and-transition models provided a robust framework for describing riparian vegetation states and generating testable hypotheses about vegetation dynamics and their relationship to environmental and management variables. These findings support continued development of riparian ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to aid decision making for conservation and management of rangeland riparian areas.
Technical Abstract: Ecological site and state-and-transition models are useful tools for generating and testing hypotheses about drivers of vegetation composition in non-equilibrium systems, and have been widely implemented on rangelands. Compared to upland areas, little attention has been given to developing ecological site concepts for rangeland riparian areas, and additional environmental criteria may be necessary to classify riparian ecological sites. Between 2013 and 2016, fifteen study reaches on five creeks were studied at Tejon Ranch in southern California. Data were collected to describe the relationship between riparian vegetation composition and environmental variables, and to explore the utility of ecological site and state-and-transition models for describing vegetation communities and for creating hypotheses about drivers of vegetation change. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to classify the environmental and vegetation data (15 stream reaches * 4 years) into two ecological sites and eight community phases that comprised three vegetation states. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis was used to determine the influence of abiotic site variables on vegetation clusters. Channel slope explained the greatest amount of variation in vegetation clusters; however, soil texture, geology, watershed size, and elevation were also selected as important predictors of vegetation composition. The classification tree built with this limited set of abiotic predictor variables explained 90% of the observed vegetation clusters. Abiotic variables explained almost all of the observed riparian vegetation dynamics, suggesting that non-equilibrium models would be well-suited for understanding and predicting change in this highly variable system. Indeed, ecological site and state-and-transition models provided a robust framework for describing riparian vegetation states and generating testable hypotheses about vegetation dynamics and their relationship to environmental and management variables. These findings support continued development of riparian ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to aid decision making for conservation and management of rangeland riparian areas.