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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Application of Soil Quality to Monitoring and Management: Paradigms from Rangeland Ecology

Authors
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Brown, J - USDA-NAT RES CONSERV SVC
item Tugel, A - USDA-NAT RES CONSERV SVC
item Shaver, P - USDA-NAT RES CONSERV SVC
item Havstad, Kris

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 17, 2000
Publication Date: January 1, 2002
Citation: HERRICK, J.E., BROWN, J.R., TUGEL, A., SHAVER, P.L., HAVSTAD, K.M. APPLICATION OF SOIL QUALITY TO MONITORING AND MANAGEMENT: PARADIGMS FROM RANGELAND ECOLOGY. AGRONOMY JOURNAL. 2002. V. 94(1). P. 3-11.

Interpretive Summary: Soil properties can be useful indicator of rangeland condition, but they are rarely included in monitoring programs. We have identified four guidelines for soil and soil quality indicators which, if followed, should increase the utility of soil information. The guidelines include 1) identifying a suite of indicators that are consistently correlated with critical ecosystem processes related to soil stability, soil water infiltration, and the capacity of the ecosystem to recover following disturbance, 2) basing indicator selection on inherent soil and site characteristics and on site- or project-specific resource concerns, such as erosion or species invasion, 3) using spatial variability in developing and interpreting indicators to make them more representative of ecological processes, and 4) interpreting indicators in the context of an understanding of dynamic ecological processes. These guidelines should help pland managers to more effectively select and interpret soil indicators ultimately leading to improved management. They should also help guide the work of researchers who are attempting to develop indicators for both croplands and rangelands.

Technical Abstract: Recent interest in soil quality and rangeland health, and the large areas set aside under the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, have contributed to a gradual convergence of assessment, monitoring and management approaches in croplands and rangelands. The objective of this paper is to describe a basis for integrating soils and soil quality into rangeland monitoring, and dthrough monitoring, into management. Previous attempts to integrate soil indicators into rangeland monitoring programs have often failed due to a lack of understanding of how to apply those indicators to ecosystem function and management. We discuss four guidelines which we have used to select and interpret soil and soil quality indicators in rangelands, and illustrate them using a recently developed rangeland monitoring system. The guidelines include 1) identifying a suite of indicators that are consistently correlated with the functional status of one or more critical ecosystem processes including those related to soil stability, soil water infiltration, and the capacity of the ecosystem to recover following disturbance, 2) basing indicator selection on inherent soil and site characteristics and on site- or project-specific resource concerns, such as erosion or species invasion, 3) using spatial variability in developing and interpreting indicators to make them more representative of ecological processes, and 4) interpreting indicators in the context of an understanding of dynamic, non-linear ecological processes which are defined by thresholds. The approach defined by these guidelines may serve as a paradigm for applying the soil quality concept in other ecosystems, including forests and ecosystems managed for annual and perennial crop production.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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