Field Sampling

An indicator is a component of an ecosystem whose characteristics can be used as an index of an attribute that is too difficult, inconvenient, or expensive to measure directly. Indicators are measurable aspects of an ecosystem that tell you about the status of one or more of the three ecosystem attributes. For example, the amount of bare ground on a site and its arrangement can be an indicator of potential for soil erosion and soil nutrient loss, decreased water infiltration, and species invasion. Other indicators to consider when describing soil and site stability might be the presence and amount of compaction and the extent of water flow patterns.

Core indicators are classes of indicators that are informative of many aspects of range health and are useful for answering many other resource management questions.

Supplemental Indicators: if there is an indicator that is important for understanding the ecosystem function and processes in your region, then you should also measure this indicator. For example, in the Colorado Plateau, biological crusts may be a useful supplemental indicator to help evaluate soil and site stability and biotic integrity. If you choose to add a supplemental indicator, it is advisable to follow as many principles of the core indicators as possible. For instance, the quantitative terrestrial core indicators are bare ground, species composition, non-native invasive species, plant species of management concern, vegetation height, and canopy gaps.

Core Methods: a method is a technique for measuring an indicator. There may be more than one method for measuring an indicator (Figure 6). It is important when selecting methods that you understand how the method defines the characteristic being measured, and how it is measuring that characteristic. The Monitoring Manual for Grassland Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems  fully describes the core methods that should be utilized when monitoring the Core Indicators.


Figure 1. Core and Supplemental Indicators

Data collection advice from other project leads:

  • The BLM project coordinator must occasionally accompany the field crew into the field to provide quality assurance.
  • The AIM training is critical for getting quality data and improving efficiency
  • The BLM project coordinator must spend time with the crew planning for logistical considerations such as private property access and poor road conditions.
  • Crews should have tablets before the training so they can be familiar with them when they get to the training
  • The BLM project coordinator must be prepared to execute a safety plan, including a check in / check out procedure with contingencies.
  • The desire to sample points in order must be balanced with cost.
  • Crews should not upload a new USDA plant list every year in order to save the modified attributes

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