Range Management Databases on the Web: Two Examples

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1 Range Management Databases on the Web: Two Examples George Ruyle, Chair, Rangeland & Forest Research Program, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Biological Sciences East 302, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85721, TEL: , FAX: , Barbara Hutchinson, Director, Office of Arid Lands Studies - ALIC, University of Arizona, 1955 E 6th St, Tucson AZ , TEL: , FAX: , Michael Haseltine, Webmaster, Office of Arid Lands Studies - ALIC, University of Arizona, 1955 E 6th St, Tucson AZ , TEL: , FAX: , Steve Barker, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Arizona Office ABSTRACT Two World Wide Web-based projects involving multiple partners at the University of Arizona included the development of database structures and user interfaces to provide access to primary data and resources for land management purposes. The first project focused on developing an information resource to improve management of public land grazing allotments. The resulting web site [ presents fifty years of historical data and reports on the U.S. Forest Service Walker Basin Allotment, a part of the University of Arizona's V bar V ranch located in Central Arizona. Included is a database which provides users with access to multiple years of vegetation monitoring data and repeat photography collected on the Allotment including transect readings and plant frequency numbers. The overall purpose of the project was to facilitate knowledge and understanding of public land management issues related to environmental regulations and to demonstrate an efficient means for collecting and maintaining land condition information. The second database development project was part of a much larger ongoing effort focused on providing extensive and evaluated resources on Western rangelands via the web. Part of the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC), the Arizona Rangelands web site [ is home to a database of Ecological Site Guides which offers both an attribute and geospatial interface for user access. These guides were developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to aid in solving land management problems and include detailed information on specific physiographic, climate, water, and soil features as well as extensive plant community information based on field data interpretation. Previously available only in paper format, the prototype to be presented in this poster is a fullysearchable and geospatially-referenced web-based database. INTRODUCTION The University of Arizona s Rangeland and Forest Resources Program (School of Renewable Natural Resources), Arid Lands Information Center (Office of Arid Lands Studies), and Arizona Cooperative Extension, with the support of the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources

2 Conservation Service (NRCS), have several collaborative projects to provide technical and archival information for rangeland management. Presented are two representative projects: the NRCS Arizona Ecological Site Descriptions, and vegetation monitoring data collected from the University of Arizona s V Bar V Ranch on Walker Basin Allotment located in north-central Arizona. ECOLOGICAL SITE DEFINED Recognition of land types which differ significantly in their ability to produce vegetation, either kind or amount, is fundamental for predicting response of vegetation to natural factors or management, and for extrapolating research and management experience to the landscape. The concept of ecological sites was developed to describe such land units. They are defined as a kind of land with specific physical characteristics that are different from other kinds of land in the ability to produce distinctive kinds and amounts of vegetation in response to management practices. The capacity of rangeland to produce vegetation is determined primarily by climate and soil. Within a general climatic type, soil properties reflect the integrated effects of topographic position, geologic substrate, geomorphic evolution, and land use history which determine the ability of the land to supply moisture and nutrients to plants. Differences in any of these factors significant to management would constitute the basis for recognizing different ecological sites. ECOLOGICAL SITE DESCRIPTIONS Ecological sites are the standard unit of analysis for all non-federal rangelands as well as Bureau of Land Management and some Park Service lands. Ecological sites and interpretive Ecological Site Descriptions are already existing tools that are developed as aides for solving land management problems. A typical Ecological Site Description provides information for a specific named land area or ecological site. This information covers physiographic, climatic, and water features as well as extensive soil and plant community information. By entering Ecological Site Description information into a web-based database and linking the database to a Geographic Information System (GIS), a prototype tool was created that allows landowners and land managers to select exactly those pieces of data that are of interest. This data can then be combined and analyzed in ways that are pertinent to a specific situation or problem. The current prototype web site provides anytime access to the NRCS Ecological Site Descriptions for Arizona. The NRCS office in Arizona provided the database of the Descriptions, and the University of Arizona team developed the interface. It is available from the Arizona Rangelands AgNIC web site at: (See Figure 1)

3 Figure 1. Ecological Site Guide Home Page There are two basic avenues of access to the Site Descriptions, by location via a map-based interface, or by land attributes via a text-based interface. The attribute interface provides users with a means to find the Site Description of interest by choosing elevation, precipitation range, and/or the land resource unit (LRU) (See Figure 2). On the other hand, the map interface uses soil as the basis for determining, correlating, and differentiating one ecological site from another, thus, the detail available in a soil map will determine how accurately a Site Description can be pinpointed on a map. Figure 2. Attribute Interface to the Arizona Ecological Site Guides The most detailed soil maps (1:24,000) for Arizona are being developed area by area, with more than 20 complete at this time. A less detailed (1:1,000,000) soil map is available for the entire state. The web site provides access to Site Descriptions for Arizona using this less detailed - 3 -

4 map, or for the area of the Tonono O odahm Nation with the more detailed soil map. As funds become available, the more detailed maps will be incorporated into the database. ARIZONA STATE MAP INTERFACE The base map for all of Arizona is the LRU (See Figure 3). Layers displayed in the default map include county boundaries and highways. There are several other overlays and basemaps to choose from. Choices at the top of the map define what action a mouse click performs: identifying aspects of the location clicked, zooming in or out, or panning the view. Other information available for selection includes the location (latitude and longitude; township and range), land ownership, soil association, and links to information about the LRU (from the NRCS web site) and the county (on the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences web site), plus a link that pulls a list of all Site Descriptions in the LRU from the database. Each listed Site Description has a link to the full Description information. Figure 3. Ecological Site Guide Map Interface for Arizona TOHONO O ODAHM NATION MAP INTERFACE The base map for the Tohono O odahm Nation is also a soil map (See Figure 4). As in the Arizona map, there are a number of layers and basemaps available to assist the user in locating their point of interest. Much of the interface is the same; however, in this case a click identifies a select few (usually one to three) possible Site Guides for the selected land point

5 Figure 4. Tohono O odahm Nation Map Interface VEGETATION MONITORING DATA The monitoring of vegetation and other natural resources has become an important part of range management on both private and public lands. Vegetation monitoring identifies and documents changes in the resource over time, providing information to evaluate management practices in relation to natural influences such as weather. Today, most ranchers and other land managers are choosing to collect data and keep records on the status of the rangeland resources they manage. On the Walker Basin Allotment, part of the V Bar V Ranch, now owned by the University of Arizona, this recording has been done extensively for 40 or more years, and the University of Arizona team has added the data to the web site for the allotment [ (See Figures 5-8). Figure 5. Walker Basin Allotment Home Page - 5 -

6 Figure 6. Resource Inventory and Monitoring Home Page Figure 7. Allotment Monitoring Data Access page Figure 8. Summary data for the cluster chosen - 6 -

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