A field guide to land: User-friendly interpretations of rangeland communities

TitleA field guide to land: User-friendly interpretations of rangeland communities
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsBestelmeyer BT, Chavez G., Brown JR, Trujillo D.
Conference NameSecond National Conference on Grazing Lands
Date PublishedDecember 7-10, 2
Conference LocationNashville, TN
ARIS Log Number159364
AbstractThe Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are a series of publically-available reports that provide interpretations of plant community composition and change that are based on climate, soil development, surface soil characteristics and fertility, and competition and disturbance to key plant species. A single ESD report is associated with several soil series occurring within climatic region. These reports can be used to help evaluate questions about land condition, such as: why is there so little black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) on this site? The answer will be different depending on the location and history of the site: the climate may be too wet or the soil too clayey to support much black grama; black grama may have been abundant but was reduced due to historical degradation of the soil; or black grama has recently declined due to heavy grazing or drought, but can recover its former abundance. Choosing the right answer is critical for identifying real management options and avoiding needless controversy. ESDs are increasingly able to assist the analysis of plant and soil patterns but are difficult for the public to use. We provide an example and format for user-friendly versions of ESDs that features a range of decision support tools, including a series of keys and supplemental photographs, to guide interpretations of land condition in defined geographic areas.