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Data from: Applying ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to a grazed riparian rangeland

Citation

Ratcliff, Felix et al. (2018), Data from: Applying ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to a grazed riparian rangeland, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6jc55mn

Abstract

Ecological sites and state-and-transition models are useful tools for generating and testing hypotheses about drivers of vegetation composition in rangeland systems. These models have been widely implemented in upland rangelands, but comparatively little attention has been given to developing ecological site concepts for rangeland riparian areas, and additional environmental criteria may be necessary to classify riparian ecological sites. Between 2013 and 2016, fifteen study reaches on five creeks were studied at Tejon Ranch in southern California. Data were collected to describe the relationship between riparian vegetation composition, environmental variables, and livestock management; and to explore the utility of ecological sites and state-and-transition models for describing riparian vegetation communities and for creating hypotheses about drivers of vegetation change. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to classify the environmental and vegetation data (15 stream reaches 4 years) into two ecological sites and eight community phases that comprised three vegetation states. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis was used to determine the influence of abiotic site variables, annual precipitation, and cattle activity on vegetation clusters. Channel slope explained the greatest amount of variation in vegetation clusters; however, soil texture, geology, watershed size, and elevation were also selected as important predictors of vegetation composition. The classification tree built with this limited set of abiotic predictor variables explained 90% of the observed vegetation clusters. Cattle grazing and annual precipitation were not linked to qualitative differences in vegetation. Abiotic variables explained almost all of the observed riparian vegetation dynamics—and the divisions in the CART analysis corresponded roughly to the ecological sites—suggesting that ecological sites are well-suited for understanding and predicting change in this highly variable system. These findings support continued development of riparian ecological site concepts and state-and-transition models to aid decision making for conservation and management of rangeland riparian areas.

Usage Notes

Location

San Joaquin Valley
California