Hostname: page-component-5db6c4db9b-mcx2m Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-24T17:31:41.785Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Using Rangeland Health Assessment to Inform Successional Management

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Roger L. Sheley*
USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Burns, OR 97720. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer
Jeremy J. James
USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Burns, OR 97720. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer
Edward A. Vasquez
USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Burns, OR 97720. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer
Tony J. Svejcar
USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Burns, OR 97720. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer
Corresponding author's E-mail:


Rangeland health assessment provides qualitative information on ecosystem attributes. Successional management is a conceptual framework that allows managers to link information gathered in rangeland health assessment to ecological processes that need to be repaired to allow vegetation to change in a favorable direction. The objective of this paper is to detail how these two endeavors can be integrated to form a holistic vegetation management framework. The Rangeland Health Assessment procedures described by Pyke et al. (2002) and Pellant et al. (2005) currently are being adopted by land managers across the western United States. Seventeen standard indicators were selected to represent various ecological aspects of ecosystem health. Each of the indicators is rated from extreme to no (slight) departure from the Ecological Site Description and/or the Reference Area(s). Successional management identifies three general drivers of plant community change: site availability, species availability, and species performance, as well as specific ecological processes influencing these drivers. In this paper, we propose and provide examples of a method to link the information collected in rangeland health assessment to the successional management framework. Thus, this method not only allows managers to quantify a point-in-time indication of rangeland health but also allows managers to use this information to decide how various management options might influence vegetation trajectories. We argue that integrating the Rangeland Health Assessment with Successional Management enhances the usefulness of both systems and provides synergistic value to the decision-making process.

Copyright © Weed Science Society of America 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Literature Cited

Baeten, L., Jacquemyn, H., Van Calster, H., Van Beek, E., Devlaeminck, R., Verheyen, K., and Hermy, M. 2009. Low recruitment across life stages partly accounts for the slow colonization of forest herbs. J. Ecol. 97:109117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barnes, B., Bi, H. Q., and Roderick, M. L. 2006. Application of an ecological framework linking scales based on self-thinning. Ecol. Appl. 16:133142.Google ScholarPubMed
Benkobi, L., Trlica, M. J., and Smith, J. L. 1993. Soil Loss as Affected by Different Combinations of Surface Litter and Rock. J. Environ. Qual. 22:657661.Google Scholar
Bezemer, T. M., Lawson, C. S., Hedlund, K., Edwards, A. R., Brook, A. J., Igual, J. M., Mortimer, S. R., and Van Der Putten, W. H. 2006. Plant species and functional group effects on abiotic and microbial soil properties and plant-soil feedback responses in two grasslands. J. Ecol. 94:893904.Google Scholar
Bischoff, A., Warthemann, G., and Klotz, S. 2009. Succession of floodplain grasslands following reduction in land use intensity: the importance of environmental conditions, management and dispersal. J. Appl. Ecol. 46:241249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonis, A., Bouzille, J. B., Amiaud, B., and Loucougaray, G. 2005. Plant community patterns in old embanked grasslands and the survival of halophytic flora. Flora 200:7487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Breckenridge, R. P., Kepner, W. G., and Mouat, D. A. 1995. A process for selecting indicators for monitoring conditions of rangeland health. Environ. Monit. Assess. 36:4560.Google ScholarPubMed
Briske, D. D., Fuhlendorf, S. D., and Smeins, F. E. 2005. State-and-transition models, thresholds, and rangeland health: a synthesis of ecological concepts and perspectives. Rangeland Ecol. Manag. 58:110.2.0.CO;2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burke, A. 2008. The effect of topsoil treatment on the recovery of rocky plain and outcrop plant communities in Namibia. J. Arid Environ. 72:15311536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cairns, J. 1993. Is restoration ecology practical? Restor. Ecol. 1:37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Castro, H. and Freitas, H. 2009. Above-ground biomass and productivity in the Montado: from herbaceous to shrub dominated communities. J. Arid Environ. 73:506511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cerda, A. 1999. Parent material and vegetation affect soil erosion in eastern Spain. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 63:362368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clements, F. E. 1916. Plant Succession. Washington, DC Carnegie Institute. 512 p.Google Scholar
Clewell, A. and Rieger, J. P. 1997. What practitioners need from restoration ecologists. Restor. Ecol. 5:350354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dodge, R. S., Fule, P. Z., and Sieg, C. H. 2008. Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) response to wildfire in a southwestern USA forest. Ecoscience 15:213222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Donath, T. W. and Eckstein, R. L. 2008. Grass and oak litter exert different effects on seedling emergence of herbaceous perennials from grasslands and woodlands. J. Ecol. 96:272280.Google Scholar
Dyksterhuis, E. J. 1949. Condition and management of range land based on quantitative ecology. J. Range. Manage. 2:104115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dzwonko, Z. and Loster, S. 2008. Changes in plant species composition in abandoned and restored limestone grasslands - the effects of tree and shrub cutting. Acta Soc. Bot. Pol. 77:6775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Egler, F. E. 1954. Vegetation science concepts I. intitial florisitc composition, a factor in old-field development. Vegetatio 4:412417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foster, B. L., Murphy, C. A., Keller, K. R., Aschenbach, T. A., Questad, E. J., and Kindscher, K. 2007. Restoration of prairie community structure and ecosystem function in an abandoned hayfield: a sowing experiment. Restor. Ecol. 15:652661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gram, W. K., Sork, V. L., Marquis, R. J., Renken, R. B., Clawson, R. L., Faaborg, J., Fantz, D. A., Le Corff, J., Lill, J., and Porneluzi, P. A. 2001. Evaluating the effects of ecosystem management: a case study in a Missouri Ozark forest. Ecol. Appl. 11:16671679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galatowitsch, S. M. 2006. Restoring prairie pothole wetlands: does the species pool concept offer decision-making guidance for re-vegetation? Appl. Veg. Sci. 9:261270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hobbs, R. J. and Harris, J. A. 2001. Restoration ecology: repairing the earth's damaged ecosystems in the new millennium. Restor. Ecol. 9:239246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hobbs, R. J. and Norton, D. A. 1996. Toward a conceptual framework for restoration ecology. Restor. Ecol. 4:93110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holdaway, R. J. and Sparrow, A. D. 2006. Assembly rules operating along a primary riverbed-grassland successional sequence. J. Ecol. 94:10921102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
James, J. J., Smith, B. S., Vasquez, E., and Sheley, R. L. 2010. Principles for ecologically-based invasive plant management. Invasive Plant Sci. and Manag. 3:229239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kardol, P., Van Der Wal, A., Bezemer, T. M., De Boer, W., Duyts, H., Holtkamp, R., and Van Der Putten, W. H. 2008. Restoration of species-rich grasslands on ex-arable land: Seed addition outweighs soil fertility reduction. Biol. Conserv. 141:22082217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knapp, E. E. and Rice, K. J. 2011. Effects of competition and temporal variation on the evolutionary potential of two native bunchgrass species. Restor. Ecol. 19:407417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Koniak, G. and Noy-Meir, I. 2009. A hierarchical, multi-scale, management-responsive model of Mediterranean vegetation dynamics. Ecol. Model. 220:11481158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Korner, C., Stocklin, J., Reuther-Thiebaud, L., and Pelaez-Riedl, S. 2008. Small differences in arrival time influence composition and productivity of plant communities. New Phytol. 177:698705.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kremer, R. G., Hunt, E. R., Running, S. W., and Coughlan, J. C. 1996. Simulating vegetational and hydrologic responses to natural climatic variation and GCM-predicted climate change in a semi-arid ecosystem in Washington, USA. J. Arid Environ. 33:2238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kulmatiski, A., Beard, K. H., and Stark, J. M. 2006. Exotic plant communities shift water-use timing in a shrub-steppe ecosystem. Plant Soil 288:271284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lanta, V. and Leps, J. 2009. How does surrounding vegetation affect the course of succession: A five-year container experiment. J. Veg. Sci. 20:686694.Google Scholar
Li, Y. H., Wang, W., Liu, Z. L., and Jiang, S. 2008. Grazing Gradient versus Restoration Succession of Leymus chinensis (Trin.) Tzvel. Grassland in Inner Mongolia. Restor. Ecol. 16:572583.Google Scholar
Li, Z. Q., Bogaert, J., and Nijs, I. 2005. Gap pattern and colonization opportunities in plant communities: effects of species richness, mortality, and spatial aggregation. Ecography 28:777790.Google Scholar
Luzuriaga, A. L. and Escudero, A. 2008. What determines emergence and net recruitment in an early succession plant community? Disentangling biotic and abiotic effects. J. Veg. Sci. 19:445446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mahaming, A. R., Mills, A.A.S., and Adl, S. M. 2009. Soil community changes during secondary succession to naturalized grasslands. Appl. Soil Ecol. 41:137147.Google Scholar
Mata-Gonzalez, R., Hunter, R. G., Coldren, C. L., Mclendon, T., and Paschke, M. W. 2008. A comparison of modeled and measured impacts of resource manipulations for control of Bromus tectorum in sagebrush steppe. J. Arid Environ. 72:836846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mcintyre, S., Lavorel, S., and Tremont, R. M. 1995. Plant Life-History Attributes - Their Relationship to Disturbance Responses in Herbaceous Vegetation. J. Ecol. 83:3144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mckinley, D. C. and Van Auken, O. W. 2005. Influence of interacting factors on the growth and mortality of Juniperus seedlings. Am. Midl. Nat. 154:320330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Midoko-Iponga, D., Krug, C. B., and Milton, S. J. 2005. Competition and herbivory influence growth and survival of shrubs on old fields: Implications for restoration of renosterveld shrubland. J. Veg. Sci. 16:685692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, R. F. and Heyerdahl, E. K. 2008. Fine-scale variation of historical fire regimes in semi-arid shrubland and woodland: an example from California, USA. Int. J. Wildland Fire 17:245254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
[NRC] National Research Council. 1994. Rangeland Health: New Methods to Classify, Inventory, and Monitor Rangelands. Washington, DC National Academies Press. 200 p.Google Scholar
Papaik, M. J. and Canham, C. D. 2006. Species resistance and community response to wind disturbance regimes in northern temperate forests. J. Ecol. 94:10111026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pellant, M., Shaver, P., Pyke, D. A., and Herrick, J. E. 2005. Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health. Interagency Technical Reference 1734-6. Denver, Colorado USDI–Bureau of Land Management, National Business Center. 136 p.Google Scholar
Peltzer, D. A., Bellingham, P. J., Kurokawa, H., Walker, L. R., Wardle, D. A., and Yeates, G. W. 2009. Punching above their weight: low-biomass non-native plant species alter soil properties during primary succession. Oikos 118:10011014.Google Scholar
Pickett, S.T.A., Collins, S. L., and Armesto, J. J. 1987. Model, mechanisms, and pathways of succession. Bot. Rev. 53:335371.Google Scholar
Pranagal, J., Podstawka-Chmielewska, E., and Slowinska-Jurkiewicz, A. 2007. Influence on selected physical properties of a Haplic Podzol during a ten-year fallow period. Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 16:875880.Google Scholar
Pyke, D. A., Pellant, M., Shaver, P., and Herrick, J. E. 2002. Rangeland health attributes and indicators for qualitative assessment. J. Range Manag. 55:584597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reed, M. S., Dougill, A. J., and Baker, T. R. 2008. Participatory indicator development: What can ecologists and local communities learn from each other? Ecol. Appl. 18:12531269.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sampson, A. W. 1919. Plant Succession in Relation to Range Management. Washington, DC USDA. 76 p.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheley, R. L., James, J. J., and Bard, E. C. 2009. Augmentative restoration: repairing damaged ecological processes during restoration of heterogeneous environments. Invasive Plant Sci. Manage. 2:1021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheley, R. L., Mangold, J. M., and Anderson, J. L. 2006. Potential for successional theory to guide restoration of invasive plant-dominated rangelands. Ecol. Monogr. 76:365379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheley, R. L., Olson, B. E., and Larson, L. L. 1997. Effect of weed seed rate and grass defoliation level on diffuse knapweed. J. Range Manag. 50:3943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheley, R. S., Svejcar, T. J., and Maxwell, B. D. 1996. A theoretical framework for developing successional weed management strategies on rangeland. Weed Technol. 10:766773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheley, R., Vasquez, E., James, J., and Smith, B. 2010. Applying Ecologically-based Invasive Rangeland Ecol. Manag. 63:605613.Google Scholar
Suman, B. L. 2008. Ecological succession in relation to vegetative dynamics in grass flora and forage productivity on salt-affected soils of indo-gangetic plains. Range Manag. Agrofor. 29:4347.Google Scholar
Swanson, F. J. and Franklin, J. F. 1992. New forestry principles for ecosystem analysis of Pacific Northwest forests. Ecol. Appl. 2:262274.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Symstad, A. J. 2000. A test of the effects of functional group richness and composition on grassland invasibility. Ecology 81:99109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turnbull, L. A., Crawley, M. J., and Rees, M. 2000. Are plant populations seed-limited? A review of seed sowing experiments. Oikos 88:225238.Google Scholar
Vasquez, E., Sheley, R., and Svejcar, T. 2008. Creating invasion resistant soils via nitrogen management. Invasive Plant Sci. Manag. 1:304314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Velazquez, E. and Gomez-Sal, A. 2008. Landslide early succession in a neotropical dry forest. Plant Ecol. 199:295308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Velazquez, E. and Gomez-Sal, A. 2009. Changes in the Herbaceous Communities on the Landslide of the Casita Volcano, Nicaragua, during Early Succession. Folia Geobot. 44:118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vosse, S., Esler, K. J., Richardson, D. M., and Holmes, P. M. 2008. Can riparian seed banks initiate restoration after alien plant invasion? Evidence from the Western Cape, South Africa. S. Afr. J. Bot. 74:432444.Google Scholar
Walker, L. R. and Del Moral, R. 2009. Lessons from primary succession for restoration of severely damaged habitats. Appl. Veg. Sci. 12:5567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, L. R., Walker, J., and Hobbs, R. J. 2007. Linking Restoration and Ecological Succession. New York Springer. 190 p.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Warren, S. D., Blackburn, W. H., and Taylor, C. A. 1986. Soil Hydrologic Response to Number of Pastures and Stocking Density under Intensive Rotation Grazing. J. Range Manage. 39:500504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wei, X. H., Li, S., Yang, P., and Cheng, H. S. 2007. Soil erosion and vegetation succession in alpine Kobresia steppe meadow caused by plateau pika - A case study of Nagqu County, Tibet. Chinese Geogr. Sci. 17:7581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilby, A. and Brown, V. K. 2001. Herbivory, litter and soil disturbance as determinants of vegetation dynamics during early old-field succession under set-aside. Oecologia 127:259265.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wright, B. R. and Clarke, P. J. 2009. Fire, aridity and seed banks. What does seed bank composition reveal about community processes in fire-prone desert? J. Veg. Sci. 20:663674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yurkonis, K. A. and Meiners, S. J. 2006. Drought impacts and recovery are driven by local variation in species turnover. Plant Ecol. 184:325336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar