The accurate measurement of vegetation on rangelands and forests is fundamental for the rational management of these resources. Sustainable management can only be accomplished if we can detect and quantify changes in the population density and productivity of components of the vegetative communities. Vegetative inventories usually consist of partitioning the landscape into ecological sites based upon climatic and edaphic characteristics, then generating a list of common species on reference areas. This is followed by determining the relative proportions and productivity of plant species on sites considered to be in pristine or well-functioning condition. The sites in pristine or desirable condition are used to quantify site potential and provide a benchmark by which other areas can be compared.
If a rangeland has substantially lower production of forage species or a substantially higher percentage of poisonous or unpalatable species than a reference site in high condition, then we could reasonably conclude that the management should change to address these problems. In a similar fashion, if the relative proportions of desirable plants are increasing on a landscape and the site is becoming more similar to the pristine benchmark, we could conclude that our management is working.
In any case, evaluation of managerial actions or the effects of a changing environment rests squarely on our ability to accurately measure and monitor the vegetation growing in an area. This series of videos and problem sets is designed to assist landowners, managers, and students in acquiring the skills necessary to scientifically measure herbaceous vegetation on rangelands and forests or to refresh their memories from courses taken in the past.
Hopefully, you will find this information useful and it will lead to better management of these valuable resources across the globe.