Indicators of Great Basin rangeland health

TitleIndicators of Great Basin rangeland health
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
Authorsde Soyza A.G., Van Zee J, Whitford WG, Neale A., Tallent-Hallsel N., Herrick JE, Havstad K
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Date PublishedAugust 1, 2000
Accession NumberJRN00303
ARIS Log Number141866
KeywordsGreat Basin, indicators, management, rangeland health

Early-warning indicators of rangeland health can be used to estimate the functional integrity of a site and may allow sustainable management of desert rangelands. The utility of several vegetation canopy-based indicators of rangeland health at 32 Great Basin rangeland locations was investigated. The indicators were originally developed in rangelands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Soil resources are lost through wind and water-driven erosion mainly from areas unprotected by plant canopies (i.e. bare soil). Study sites in Idaho had the smallest bare patches, followed by sites in Oregon. The more arid Great Basin Sagebrush Zone sites in Utah had the largest bare patches. Several vegetational indicators including percent cover by vegetation, percent cover by life-form, percent cover by sagebrush, and percent cover by resilient species were negatively related to mean bare patch size and are potential indicators of Great Basin rangeland condition. Plant community composition and the range of bare patch sizes were different at sites in the three locations in Idaho, Oregon and Utah. Therefore, expected indicator values are location specific and should not be extrapolated to other locations. The condition of study sites were often ranked differently by different indicators. Therefore, the condition of rangeland sites should be evaluated using several indicators.