Using Historical Vegetation Monitoring Data to Infer Trends on Public Land

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The BLM’s Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) program was implemented between 1977 and 1983 across 14 western states to provide data on vegetation communities and range conditions. USGS and BLM researchers partnered to revive and analyze historic vegetation cover data from the SVIM program to demonstrate its utility for understanding trends in vegetation through time by comparing it to data collected from 2011-2016 under BLM’s Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) program.

Analyses revealed significant declines in the occupancy and cover of native shrubs and native perennial forbs and a significant increase in exotic annual forbs for a focal region in southwest Idaho. Researchers address issues associated with analyzing and interpreting data from these distinct programs, including differing survey methods and potential biases introduced by spatial and temporal variation in sampling. This study demonstrates that SVIM data is an important resource for researchers interested in quantifying vegetation change across public rangelands.

Barker, B.S., Pilliod, D.S., Welty, J.L., Arkle, R.S., Karl, M.G., Toevs, G.R., 2018, An introduction and practical guide to the use of the Soil - Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) data: Rangeland Ecology and Management, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2018.06.003

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