Sampling Strategies for Monitoring Post-Disturbance Treatments on Rangelands

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Methodological guidelines are needed to rapidly determine vegetation responses to wildfire and post-disturbance treatments, such as seeding and herbicide applications.

Using data from one of the first statistically robust post-fire monitoring efforts across 180,000 acres burned in the 2015 Soda Fire, USGS researchers determined how many plots need to be sampled to achieve statistical confidence in vegetation cover estimates. The analysis focused on perennial bunchgrass and exotic annual grasses. Researchers identified trade-offs in number of plots, sampling methods, and plot-size selection to attain the threshold sampling requirement for areas differing in dominant plant type and elevation, among other features. Customizing the plot sampling method, size, and density will greatly improve monitoring effectiveness. The data and analytical approach used by the researchers could provide a starting point for determining how many plots are needed and thus how much monitoring effort may be needed following future disturbances.

Applestein, C.V., Germino, M.J., Pilliod, D.S., Fisk, M.R., Arkle, R.S., 2018, Appropriate sample sizes for monitoring burned pastures in sagebrush steppe- How many plots are enough, and can one size fit all?: Rangeland Ecology and Management, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2018.05.003.

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