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Using rangeland health assessment to inform successional management

Sheley, Roger L., James, Jeremy J., Vasquez, Edward A., Svejcar, Tony J.
Invasive plant science and management 2011 v.4 no.3 pp. 356
rangelands, qualitative analysis, range management, ecological succession, ecosystems, decision support systems, case studies
Rangeland health assessment provides qualitative information on ecosystem attributes. Successional management is a conceptual framework that allows managers to link information gathered in rangeland health assessment to ecological processes that need to be repaired to allow vegetation to change in a favorable direction. The objective of this paper is to detail how these two endeavors can be integrated to form a holistic vegetation management framework. The Rangeland Health Assessment procedures described by Pyke et al. (2002) and Pellant et al. (2005) currently are being adopted by land managers across the western United States. Seventeen standard indicators were selected to represent various ecological aspects of ecosystem health. Each of the indicators is rated from extreme to no (slight) departure from the Ecological Site Description and/or the Reference Area(s). Successional management identifies three general drivers of plant community change: site availability, species availability, and species performance, as well as specific ecological processes influencing these drivers. In this paper, we propose and provide examples of a method to link the information collected in rangeland health assessment to the successional management framework. Thus, this method not only allows managers to quantify a point-in-time indication of rangeland health but also allows managers to use this information to decide how various management options might influence vegetation trajectories. We argue that integrating the Rangeland Health Assessment with Successional Management enhances the usefulness of both systems and provides synergistic value to the decision-making process.