A new standard for qualitative rangeland health assessments

TitleA new standard for qualitative rangeland health assessments
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsHerrick JE, Pyke D.A., Pellant M., Shaver P.
Conference Name88th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America
Date PublishedAugust 3-8, 2003
Conference LocationSavannah, GA
ARIS Log Number153547
AbstractThe term rangeland health is increasingly used by land managers to refer to the maintenance of complex ecological processes on rangelands. In an attempt to provide a rapid, moment-in-time assessment of rangeland health, we developed the Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health protocol. This protocol uses 17 observable indicators to assess 3 attributes of rangeland health: soil and site stability, hydrologic functioning and biotic integrity. It is now being widely applied throughout the United States and Mexico. In the initial published version (3.0), the standard for assessing an evaluation area was the NRCS Ecological Site Description, a description of physical and biotic characteristics of land with similar soils and climate and that respond similarly to management. Multiple reference areas provided visual representations of the ecological site and were used to supplement Ecological Site Descriptions or as the standard when Ecological Site Descriptions were not available. This approach failed to integrate all of the diverse sources of information about rangeland ecological processes. In response, we developed an ecological reference sheet for version 4.0. A reference sheet is developed for each ecological site based on the integration of ecological site descriptions, expert knowledge, scientific literature and reference sites. Each sheet should be developed by a group of experts familiar with the range of variation in the soil, hydrologic and vegetation indicators. When possible, data similar to those found in ecological site descriptions should be used to generate a quantitative range of expected variation. We believe this change will increase the quality and consistency of evaluations completed with this protocol.