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Lesson 9: Ecological and Financial Monitoring

What you want to happen should be incorporated into your long-term strategic goal. At that point, it becomes your responsibility to make it happen. Planning is necessary to that end.

However, only very rarely do events occur according to plan. Monitoring involves watching for deviations from the plan so that corrections can be made. So, the process becomes one of: plan-monitor-control-re-plan. In other words, the process is a continuous circular loop. If you do not respond to the feedback, you fail to complete the loop. Completing the feedback loop is what makes management proactive vs. reactive.

Financial monitoring was covered thoroughly in Lesson 8. Therefore, only a brief synopsis is presented in this lesson. The focus is on biological monitoring procedures.

Before plunging into the methods and techniques of biological monitoring, we discuss several general observations. For example: We talk about how the four ecosystem processes are key indicators of the direction of the trend rangelands.

For example: What can signs of erosion, soil capping, plant forms (overgrazed and over-rested plants), etc tell you about the efficiency of the water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics? In the same manner, grazing patterns can tell you a great deal about stock density and their habits and routes.

From there we proceed into specific biological monitoring methods and techniques. The procedures we use emphasize soil surface conditions and plant density.

We separate the discussion into the two monitoring procedures: 1) Basic monitoring (taking pictures of plots and making notes of observations) and 2) Comprehensive monitoring which is a more detailed and therefore is good for monitoring public lands which require detailed records.

We talk in general about:

  • Methods for gathering the data
  • Transects
  • The Time to Monitor and
  • Closing the Circle of Management (Monitoring is useless if you don't take action when you observe adverse changes.)

Then we discuss the specifics of basic monitoring:

  • Equipment needed
  • How to establish transects
  • How to Record transect information
  • How to take photos and
  • Analyzing the data

Then we wrap up with the specific techniques used in comprehensive monitoring:

  • Equipment needed
  • How to locate transects
  • How to identify and mark the transect area
  • How to use the monitoring forms and record transect data
  • Analyzing the Data

Then we teach you how to interpret your results with a quick review of what each tool (fire, rest, animal impact [high or low], grazing [over or under], living organisms and technology) produces in terms of the 4 ecological processes (community dynamics, water cycle, mineral cycle and energy flow). 

You are then presented with a table showing five scenarios of possible ways the management tools and ecosystem processes interact.

From that, it is relatively easy to determine what actions you should take (or what things you should change next year) to keep moving toward your strategic goal.

Here is a hint: Especially after your first few years, you probably do not have enough livestock.

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