Ecological Study

©The Pellet Acre
Plant Inventory Study Site Images

In 2008-2009 we inventoried a dozen 1-acre sites in east-central Arizona on public lands. These sites are in areas of multiple uses by the public such as recreation, off-highway vehicle use, hunting, and permitted livestock grazing. Additionally, the sites have other factors that contribute to the ecological condition such as historic mining operations, extreme climate variations, prescribed burning or wildfire, elevation and aspect differences, and a variety of soil types.

The data was collected in both Spring and Fall seasons to capture those changing landscapes. Our focus was to step outside the line-transect measure to capture a representation of all plants within a 1-acre site to display nature’s possibilities and diversity. Please see Methodology page for details.

A single visit to a plant community site only offers a moment in time of the productive capability. A botanical measure, such as trend, provides plant community changes over time. This measure is usually focused on a small portion of the plant species in an area. Forage use determinations provide a point-in-time measure of use for a particular forage plant, purposefully focused yet offers limited information. Our goal was to capture an inventory of all plant species within a site and the other natural visible inputs such as soil type, soil surface protection by rocks and plant litter or impacts from insects. This information contributed further to our understanding of factors that play a role in the natural potential of an area and demonstrated the importance of all plants within a site in the determination of ecological conditions.

There are a limited number of methodologies designed specifically for the arid and semi-arid landscapes of Arizona that are used to evaluate a natural environment. These systems have limited research information available. At times, narrow point-in-time measures of single plant species and data extrapolated from landscape scale imagery has been used to portray a watershed condition. It then becomes uncertain whether the true potential or condition of a site is appropriately portrayed based on all existing features (i.e., soil, plant community, aspect, or slope).

Photo Albums

Each study area is listed by name, date, set #, allotment, and ranch. The photo albums were created as .pdf files, limited to 16 pages per album, two photos per page, to expedite downloading. Each photo is numbered for classification. Please see separate text files for photo descriptions. Text files will be available soon. We are transferring many hand written field notes and data sheets to electronic text format for your viewing. Thank you for your patience! Enjoy the plant community photo albums!

We have observed that millions of seeds lie dormant in the soil waiting to sprout with the next rain. Many plants grow only in a particular season or climatic condition. Within natural landscapes outside urban areas, plant communities even in a localized area can have extremes in cover types. For example, in one season the plant Filaree was observed to grow with dense cover as a primary species. The following season, same time of year, same location, Purslane was the dominant plant cover with hardly a Filaree in sight. These 1,000’s of plants were not seeded by man, the seeds simply lay dormant in the soil only to sprout when the moisture and temperature was suitable. It was difficult to determine whether plant competition or simply seasonal variations played a role in these changes as they are repeated over time; grazing by domestic livestock or wildlife was not a factor.

With other plant community data already available that is suitable for analysis using probability statistics, our study focused on classification techniques. The study presents documentation of the wondrous variety of plant communities within a single site that grow different times of year and provide a variety of inputs to the system, which are often ignored in more narrow measures.

This website is a work in progress. We will be continually adding new images, research materials and stories of Arizona family histories.

Please continue to check back with us often.

Natural Environment Society Southwest

Action Analysis Partners
PO Box 3464
Payson, Arizona 85541

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