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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #402717

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: A national framework for land management decision-making based on ecological knowledge

item Johanson, Jamin
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America (ESA)
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/6/2023
Publication Date: 8/11/2023
Citation: Johanson, J.K., Bestelmeyer, B.T. 2023. A national framework for land management decision-making based on ecological knowledge. Ecological Society of America (ESA). Abstract.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Land management decisions often require site-specific knowledge for conservation and restoration practices to achieve desired outcomes, such as deciding where investments in carbon sequestration will be most successful. Many agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), must allocate limited resources to maximize conservation benefits using the best available science. State-and-transition models (STMs) provide a scientific framework for organizing knowledge about the temporal dynamics of ecosystems by depicting multiple steady states and transitions between states. These conceptual diagrams combined with tabular and narrative descriptions are powerful decision-support tools for science-based conservation.   Ecological STMs have not been systematically produced on a broad scale until recently. In this presentation, we outline past impediments to STM development and use, current steps the STM development community is taking to address these problems, and emerging efforts to fortify and refine STM products for use throughout the US.   A general lack of defined ecosystem classes to which an STM applies is the primary limitation to STM development and use globally. In other words, what is the inference space of an STM once developed? To address this question for terrestrial ecosystems, the NRCS utilizes its nationwide soils database (NASIS) and supplemental vegetation datasets to define and spatially predict ecosystem classes based on the inherent potential of soil and site features within a physiographic region. The NRCS has recently correlated over ninety percent of the major soil components in the US to ecosystem classes known as ecological sites. Ecological site classes are defined in ecological site description (ESD) documents, each containing an STM draft and housed in on online database called the Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool (EDIT).   Given nationwide coverage of STM drafts linked to ESDs and soils, next steps for maximizing STM utility are 1) testing and refining ESD and STM concepts, 2) adding detailed, site-specific knowledge to STMs in the EDIT database, such as resource concerns and conservation practices relevant to specific STM states and transitions, and 3) connecting STM information to US conservation planning applications and processes. New concepts for aggregating data from ecosystems with similar STMs are being employed to streamline these processes and reveal generalizable patterns in state dynamics. Studies relating state change to dynamic soil properties are also being implemented nationwide. Collectively, these efforts will ensure that STMs represent a reliable, accessible repository of knowledge about the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of ecosystems in support of research and management decisions.