Sensitive indicators of desertification: examples of tests in the Chihuahuan Desert

TitleSensitive indicators of desertification: examples of tests in the Chihuahuan Desert
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication1997
Authorsde Soyza A.G., Van Zee J, Whitford WG
Conference NameInternational Symposium and Workshop on Combating Desertification: Connecting Science with Community Action
Date PublishedMay 12-16, 1997
Conference LocationTucson, AZ
AbstractDesertification is recognized as a suite of symptoms of degradation of rangelands. We selected a suite of indicators related to important ecosystem processes and tested these indicators at baseline sites with long, well-documented, histories of land management. Data were collected at grazing intensity gradients centered at livestock watering points, livestock exclosures, sites with documented change in vegetative cover and composition, and sites dominated by exotic species. Field measurements that provided the data for computing indicator metrics were collected at a site by a two-person team in less than 6 hours. Indicator metrics that proved to be sensitive to desertification provide calibration values of assessment and monitoring at sites where management and ecosystem status history are unknown. Indicators that were consistent and reliable include size and weighted skewness of unvegetated patches, spatial distribution and orientation of unvegetated patches, surface cover characteristics, total vegetative cover, shrub cover/grass cover, cover of native species/cover of exotic species, forage value index, and cover short-lived species/cover long-lived species.