Friday, December 16, 2011

Interagency Ecological Site Applications Workshop, Venus, Florida, November 15 - 17, 2011

The Society for Range Management and agency partners held the second regional Interagency Ecological Site Applications Workshop this past month as part of the Ecological Site Description (ESD) Workshop series.  The workshop took place at the beautiful Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida and spanned a total of three days.  There were 40 workshop participants representing 10 federal and state agencies and other organizations.  Organizations represented included: the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Air Force (USAF), Agriculture Research Service (ARS), the National Park Service (NPS), the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), and others. This broad participation resulted in an effective series of discussions and field exercises.
Participants spent a considerable amount of time in the field over the course of the workshop and were able to get a great first-hand look at the local Florida landscape.  While the ESD workshop was field-focused, the first day was spent primarily in the classroom with a series of presentations.  First day content focused on the components of an ecological site description and the background for how ESDs are developed, with the intention helping users understand the process and ultimately, the application of ESDs.

The keynote presentation by Dr. Hilary Swain of the Archbold Biological Station provided a basis for understanding the presentations on soil landscapes and vegetation dynamics that followed.  Additionally, the presentation by Menges (fire ecology) greatly added to the workshop.

Presentations by Bestelmeyer (general concepts), Weber (soil processes), Cleland (land hierarchies), Shaver (state and transition models), Sanchez (ESD components), Brown (development process), Herrick (establishing reference state conditions) and Ellis and Hendricks (uses and applications) all set the stage for understanding ESDs and the field portions of the workshop.  Presentations by Wight (policy), Biggam (National Parks Service), Gulledge (FNAI) and Sanchez (accessing ESDs) provided context for ESD projects and the resources available professionals to work on and with ESDs.

The field portions of the workshop were critical to supplement classroom material for forming a working understanding of ecological sites on the ground.  The key elements in the field exercises were to:
  1.  Demonstrate how different vegetation (states) can occupy the same soil to illustrate the importance of a well-developed state and transition model
  2. Demonstrate how different soils can have similar states resulting from different use histories and requiring different management responses.
Each field site visit had different stations focused describing climate, soil properties, vegetation attributes and management at the site.  Participants moved from station to station and interacted with experts at each to get a better understanding of the different attributes associated with the ecological site.  Field portions of the workshop provided a good basis for the discussion of how differing management regimes can result in distinctly different states with differing values and management requirements.  Likewise, the contrast between soils and similar vegetation can be very powerful in illustrating the need for verifying the soil at the site.
The Venus, Florida ESD workshop built on evaluation form data and recommendations submitted at the Nunn, Colorado workshop as well as the Pilot ESD workshop in Las Cruces, New Mexico held in November 2010.  Future ESD workshops are in development for 2012 and 2013 and will continue to build on feedback from previous workshop to enhance the overall program and tailor workshops to each location.

There will be two ESD workshops at the SRM Annual Meeting in Spokane, Washington.  The next regional three day ESD workshop is scheduled for Reno, Nevada in June 2012.  Additional workshops are in the planning stages for 2012 and 2013.

SRM and the Training Coordination Committee would like to extend a huge thank you to local and national teams that have worked hard to make this workshop series a success.

*Photos courtesy of the USDA-NRCS, photographer: Gail Hendricks.

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