Better Maps Mean Better Rangeland Management

Editors Note:  This article comes to us from Ann Perry, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff. It was originally published in the 2013 issue of Agriculture Research Magazine. Land managers are always hoping for the next best thing to help them figure out where they should spend their time and money restoring and maintaining healthy rangelands. Now Agricultural Research Service rangeland ecologist Brandon Bestelmeyer has one of the answers—an ecological-state map that identifies where rangeland is holding its own, where it could respond to restoration efforts, or where it’s already past the point of no return. “We wanted to find a way to turn existing field-level rangeland assessments into broader tools for comprehensively managing larger landscapes,” says Bestelmeyer, who works at the ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Working with U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangeland specialist Philip Smith and others, Bestelmeyer began pairing time-tested soil data and vegetation maps with state-and-transition models (STMs) to generate science-based assessments of rangeland conditions across landscapes. State and Transition Models describe the types of plant communities that can occur on a specific soil type and the shifts that occur among plant communities. Sometimes, beneficial plant communit

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