• Comparison of 2 techniques for monitoring vegetation on military lands

      Prosser, C. W.; Skinner, K. M.; Sedivec, K. K. (Society for Range Management, 2003-09-01)
      The U.S. Army is responsible for preparing a well-trained combat force while maintaining the ecological diversity and integrity of the lands it manages. The ability to efficiently collect data that accurately capture plant community diversity and percent composition is imperative to proper monitoring and land management of military lands. To ensure that the dual goals of military training and land stewardship are met on an army-wide basis, the U.S. Army Land Condition-Trend Analysis (LCTA) Program was developed. The LCTA Program specifies the Army's standard methodology for the collection, analysis, and reporting of natural resource data used for land inventory and monitoring. However, the LCTA sampling technique was developed in Colorado and Texas and little information is available on whether these methods are suitable for vegetation inventory and monitoring in other grassland ecosystems. This study compares LCTA measures of species richness and composition with quadrat sampling in the transitional area between the tall- and mixed-grass prairies of Camp Gilbert C. Grafton (South Unit) in North Dakota. Species richness was 67% higher when sampling with quadrats than using the LCTA technique, suggesting that LCTA samples did not detect a third of the plants present. Compared with the quadrat technique, LCTA samples overestimated the community contribution of Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag. ex Steud. (blue grama) and underestimated proportions of forbs and sedges. Moreover, LCTA samples are labor intensive and time consuming to collect. Other sampling methods may be needed to detect shifts in species composition towards a less desirable plant community or decreases in biodiversity that may be due to land-use. Thus, it is important for Camp Gilbert C. Grafton (South Unit) to re-evaluate the current standard methodology for monitoring the impacts of military training. Since military installations are located in many different ecosystems, it may be necessary for other installations to likewise examine the usefulness of LCTA techniques in their ecosystems.