|Title||A comparison of cover pole with standard vegetation monitoring methods|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Authors||Toledo D., Herrick JE, Abbott L.|
|Journal||Journal of Wildlife Management|
|ARIS Log Number||246815|
|Keywords||assessment, gap intercept, habitat quality, monitoring, visual obstruction, wildlife habitat|
The ability of resource managers to make informed decisions regarding wildlife habitat could be improved with the use of existing datasets and the use of cost effective, standardized methods to simultaneously quantify vertical and horizontal cover. The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize vegetation structure of three semi-arid plant communities to compare a traditional wildlife method (cover pole) and standard measurements of vegetation cover, composition, height and the proportion of the soil surface covered by large intercanopy gaps that are nationally applied; (2) use this information to define the types and amounts of habitat structure information that can be derived from these standard measurements, and (3) determine the extent to which these data may substitute for cover pole data. Visual obstruction (VO), the spatial distribution of large intercanopy gaps, and vegetation cover, composition, and height were measured between June and November of 2003 on 188 transects distributed among three arid and semi-arid vegetation types in southern and central New Mexico: shrub-invaded grassland, shrubland, and savanna. Results showed that VO was strongly correlated with vegetation height for the three communities when analyzed together and for the shrubland and savanna sites when analyzed independently, but were weakly correlated at the shrub-invaded grassland site, which had a smaller range of variation. Gap intercept variables were not correlated with VO at the shrub-invaded grassland, shrubland, or savanna sites illustrating how the VO method poorly reflects the horizontal distribution of vegetation throughout the sites. We propose that a more versatile and interpretable description of wildlife habitat can be generated using a line-point intercept method together with measurements of vegetation height and the proportion of the soil surface covered by large intercanopy gaps.