If the goal for managing rangelands is to achieve a balance between production and conservation, then monitoring is essential to detect change and apply corrective action. In some rangeland areas of northern Australia, monitoring has detected a tilt in the production-conservation balance towards excessive production. How big is this imbalance? Can it shift back? Robust monitoring is needed to answer these questions. The aim is to know what to monitor, and where. For example, to detect changes caused by livestock on rangeland forage production and soil erosion, indicators linking grazing disturbances to landscape function are needed, that is, indicators that signal how well landscapes are capturing, concentrating, and utilizing scarce water, nutrient, and organic resources. Studies in Australia and the USA document that simple vegetation and soil patch attributes can be measured as indicators of the ‘state of health’ of landscape function. For example, field and remote sensing-based grazing studies in Australia document that landscapes with a high cover of perennial plant patches function effectively to capture runoff water and nutrients in sediments, whereas landscapes with a low cover of these patches do not – they are dysfunctional – as indicated by large patches of bare soil. Aerial videography is proving to be a robust technique for measuring indicators of landscape function such as small patches of vegetation and the extent of bare soil. These indicators typically have a sigmoidal response to grazing impacts.We illustrate that if these indicators are measured on monitoring sites established near the sigmoidal ‘point of inflection’, then small changes in these indicators can be detected.
Ludwig, J. A., Bastin, G. N., Eager, R. W., Karfs, R., Ketner, P., & Pearce, G. (2000). Monitoring Australian rangeland sites using landscape function indicators and ground- and remote-based techniques. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 64, 167-178. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006475825546