Linking ecosystem services with state-and-transition models to evaluate rangeland management decisions
AdvisorGuertin, David Phillip
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractRangelands are a major type of land found on all continents. Though they comprise around 70% of the world's land area, knowledge of rangelands is limited and immature. Rangelands supply humans with food and fiber at very low energy costs compared to cultivated lands. They are inherently heterogeneous, highly variable in time and space. Rangeland management needs to consider the impacts of long-term vegetation transition. It needs a conceptual framework defining potential vegetation communities, describing the management induced transition of one vegetation community to another, and documenting the expected benefits provided by the various potential vegetation communities. The most widely used conceptual unit in the rangeland discipline is the "ecological site". Ecological sites can be an effective unit that should respond to management consistently and can help managers understand the site's potential to meet human needs. A state and transition model (STM) brings ecological sites and their potential vegetative states together to build a conceptual framework showing the major causes of transitions between states of an ecological site and thus helping make adaptive management decisions. Within the STM there is a need for an indicator of ecosystem health. Ecosystem services can be important to evaluate alternative states. Ecosystem services do not pass through a market for valuation, though often the cost would be very high if, through mismanagement, the ecosystem is no longer capable of providing those services. Vegetation communities are constantly facing reversible or irreversible transitions triggered by natural events and/or management actions. The framework generated in this study is significant in using remote sensing to generate state and transition models for a large area and in using ecosystem services to evaluate natural and/or management induced transitions as described in the STM. This dissertation addresses the improvement of public rangelands management in the West. It applies geospatial technologies to map ecological sites and states on those sites, characterizes transitions between states and selects a desired state to manage towards based on a systematic assessment of the value of flows of environmental services. The results from this study are an evaluation of improved draft ecological site maps for a larger area using remote sensing images, a simplified state-and-transition model adapted to remote sensing capabilities to study transitions due to climatic events and management practices, and a constrained optimization model that incorporates ecosystem services and the simplified STM to evaluate management costs and conservation benefits. The study showed that brush treatment is the most effective management practice to cause state transitions. The highest increase in the high cover state was by 24%. Areas under grazing and drought show slow transitions from brush to grass and also after prescribed fire vegetation take at least two years to recover.
Degree ProgramGraduate College