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Linking range health assessment methodology with science Newman, Reg F.
Abstract: The plant community approach to assessing range condition came into question in the 1990's (SRM Task Group 1995). Range health assessments were proposed as replacements for the traditional system based on plant seral stage of the site. Range health assessment methods use a holistic approach to determine the state of rangelands, and include assessments of ecological functions in addition to plant community information. Range health has been defined as: ? 'The ability of rangeland to perform certain key functions ? where all parts that make up the whole, are present and working together.' (Adams et al. 2005) ? 'The degree to which the integrity of the soil and the ecological processes of rangeland ecosystems are sustained.' (Busby 1994). Most range health assessment methods have been designed to be simpler than traditional methods of range condition assessment, allowing wider use with minimal training. Visual ratings of indicators are often used in favour of quantitative measures. Because of the reliance on visual ratings, there are some concerns regarding the reliability of range health assessments. The proposed project will address some aspects of 'the development of indicators and monitoring systems' described in the FSP Sustainability Program Advisory Committee?s (SPAC) Research Strategy 2006-2016. Specifically, the project will determine if the variables used as indicators of rangeland health are 'sensitive to the state of the system and provide unambiguous information about the system's response to (range) management'. The proposed project will achieve this by providing links among range health assessment methods and quantitative measures of plant and soil properties (e.g., water infiltration, soil aggregate stability, soil bulk density, and aboveground biomass). The intent is to determine the confidence that can be placed in range health assessments, and to provide data that can be used to refine the boundaries of the range health categories. These objectives match well with the SPAC Topic 3.1 objective, 'must be .. cost-effective systems that are technically sound, scientifically based and have adequate resolution in time and space to accurately document the range of variability and the impacts of (range) practices'. Grassland and open forest rangelands contain some of BC's most threatened habitats. There is an urgent need to scientifically validate and refine cost-effective methods that can be used by range managers to monitor the effectiveness of their activities. Two range health assessment methods will be examined: ? the current BC Ministry of Forests and Range upland assessment method (Ministry of Forests 1997) ? the Grassland Conservation Council (GCC) of BC method (Wikeem and Wikeem 2005). These methods were chosen because they are either currently in use in BC or are proposed to be used.
Newman, Reg F., Tucker, Rick; Njenga, Francis; Hope, Graeme D.; Krzic, Maja; Wurtz, Sheryl. 2007. Linking range health assessment methodology with science. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), Range, Ecology, British, Columbia
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