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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353767

Title: Comparison of 2 vegetation height methods for assessing greater sage-grouse seasonal habitat

item DI STEFANO, SEAN - New Mexico State University
item KARL, JASON - University Of Idaho
item McCord, Sarah
item Stauffer, Nelson
item MAKELA, PAUL - Bureau Of Land Management
item MANNING, MARY - Us Forest Service (FS)

Submitted to: Wildlife Society Bulletin
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/24/2018
Publication Date: 5/21/2018
Citation: Di Stefano, S.F., Karl, J.W., McCord, S.E., Stauffer, N.G., Makela, P., Manning, M. 2018. Comparison of 2 vegetation height methods for assessing greater sage-grouse seasonal habitat. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 42(2):213-224.

Interpretive Summary: We examined the differences in the BLM AIM and HAF height protocols. We found that the two rangeland height methods have a predictable relationship at the plot level and therefore the AIM methods can be used to assess sage grouse habitat suitability. Where differences may occur, this rarely results in a different management decision outcome.

Technical Abstract: The 2015 Sage-Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) was developed to evaluate habitat quality for sage-grouse (Centrocercus spp.), with the greater sage-grouse (C. urophasianus) as the primary focus of HAF evaluations and basis of the indicators in the HAF. Site-scale assessments of sage-grouse habitat can be completed using either data collection methods described in the HAF or core methods adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) program. However, there is a discrepancy in how vegetation height is measured between HAF and AIM methods, which has led to confusion as to which protocol should be used and if the AIM height method is compatible with the HAF for habitat assessments. Our objective was to use simulations and data from multiple study areas to determine how often differences between the 2 methods would result in a different determination of quality for the vegetation-height habitat indicator. We confirmed that the AIM method generally yields lower estimates of height than the HAF method because it estimates mean vegetation height whereas the HAF method estimates mean maximum height (d ¼ 0.031). However, differences between methods at the plot level most often were not substantial enough to lead to a different conclusion about the HAF vegetation-height indicator for habitat quality. There is value in implementing the AIM method because it is widely used for other monitoring purposes, and slight modifications to the AIM technique (i.e., increasing measurement frequency, adding measurements for both grasses and forbs) could improve usefulness for sage-grouse habitat assessments.