The SRMC project aims to conduct and evaluate monitoring data on a growing number of ranches in the Nebraska Sandhills, connecting ranchers, scientists, and the public in ongoing knowledge exchange relating to rangeland health and management. The 2019 monitoring results were compiled and analysed by region and will be discussed here.
Two Sandhills Regions
A total of 70 monitoring sites across 7 SRMC ranches made up the 2019 monitoring season. Ranches were grouped into two regions (western sandhills and central sandhills) as shown in the figure below. Four ranches were in the western sandhills and had 36 uplands study sites (n=36), while three ranches were in the central sandhills with 34 uplands study sites (n=34).
Bringing the Data Together
Data collected during the 2019 monitoring season (July-September) were made into boxplots and displayed in graphs on the following pages. These graphs show percent cover, frequency of occurrence, and dry weight rank for rangeland plants for upland sites on the 2019 SRMC ranches grouped by region.
What is a boxplot, and how do I interpret it?
A boxplot is a way to display a group of data points by the average, median, upper quartile, lower quartile, minimum, and maximum values as well as the outliers. The figure below describes these terms and outlines how to read a boxplot.
2019 Results by Region
Percent Cover on Uplands
Percent cover describes the percent of ground surface covered by litter, bare ground, or bases of live plants (basal live veg.) on a site. In sandhills rangelands, prevalent bare ground indicates a risk of wind and water erosion. Litter can act as a beneficial mulch for live vegetation throughout the growing season.
Comments on 2019 Percent Cover Results
On both western and the central sandhills ranches, litter was the dominant component of ground cover on uplands, dunetops, and slopes, with the maximum reaching about 82% in both regions. Bare ground and basal live vegetation were similar in both regions, though the average and maximum bare ground tended to be higher on the western sandhills upland sites.
Frequency of Occurrence
Frequency of occurrence monitoring can pick up trends and changes in rangeland vegetation. It highlights how commonly a species is observed across a site. If you put a grid of quadrats along a landscape, it depicts the percent frequency at which you would see these species.
Frequency of Occurrence
Upland Forbs and Shrubs
Comments on 2019 Frequency of Occurrence Results
In the uplands of the western sandhills, prairie sandreed and sand bluestem are the most frequent grasses after sedge. However in the central sandhills little bluestem and scribners rosette grass are the most frequent after sedge. Western wheatgrass was seen primarily in western sandhills upland sites, while switchgrass was seen in the central region. Sedge and needle grasses are common cool season species found in both regions, while fall rosette grass are only commonly seen at central sandhills upland sites. Stiff sunflower was the most frequently observed species in the central sandhills uplands, while it did not reach above 5% on any of the western sandhills sites. Daisy fleabane was the second most frequently observed forb on uplands in the western sandhills, but it did not reach above 5% on any central sandhills site.
Dry Weight Rank
Upland Forbs and Shrubs
Comments on 2019 DWR Results
In the western sandhills upland sites, sand bluestem and prairie sandreed were the most important grasses by dry weight with maximums no more than 48%. However, in the central sandhills uplands, little bluestem and scribners rosette grass dominated, with little bluestem reaching a maximum of about 55% of total biomass. Annual sunflower and daisy fleabane were seen only as contributors in the western sandhills, while stiff sunflower was only seen as a contributor in the central sandhills reaching a maximum of about 38% of total biomass.
How to Use Monitoring Results
There are a number of ways you can interpret and use monitoring data, whether you have a single year or many years of data. One way is to compare your data to the target plant communities highlighted in the NRCS state and transition models for the ecological site you are monitoring. Monitoring data can help detect changes in plant communities over time and may highlight plant responses to grazing management strategies. The compiled data displayed here can be used when reviewing your own monitoring results by comparing your values with the averages, maximums, and minimums in your region. In this way you may be able to detect needs for reassessing management practices based on your goals (https://globalrangelands.org/topics/maintaining-and-improving-rangelands/rangeland-monitoring).