Public land management agencies require reliable and consistent quantitative data on the status, condition, and trend of natural resources on public lands. GBI Ecological Monitoring Program partners with the Bureau of Land Management to advance acquire these data by implementing the Assessment Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) Strategy, a national program that sets rigorous standards for data collection for use across jurisdictions and agencies. Data collected documents changes in resource condition over time and informs decision making at the landscape scale.
In partnership with the BLM’s National Operations Center and the ARS Jornada Experimental Range, GBI Ecological Monitoring Program has completed over 7,000 AIM terrestrial and aquatic sampling plots in Nevada, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Land Health Assessments and Vegetation Habitat Assessments are also performed in partnership with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Nevada Partners for Development and Conservation. GBI gathers data in northern Nevada areas, where habitat restoration activities are underway for the Bi-State sage grouse population. Field crews use AIM monitoring protocol to assess restoration efficacy and adaptive management planning.
Monitoring projects also include assessing pygmy rabbit habitat impacted by construction of the Ruby Pipeline, and imperiled pinyon jay habitat in the Desatoya Mountains. GBI also partners on NRCS projects in northeastern Nevada where sagebrush ecosystems continue to be threatened by impacts of wildfire and climate change.
Great Basin Institute Ecological Monitoring Program provides the following monitoring & managing projects to the area:
Research Associates monitor landscape recovery after wildfires, tracking erosion, mapping weeds and evaluating the recovery of native plant species across the western states. Post fire recovery efforts stabilize soils to reduce susceptibility to wind and water erosion and to protect watersheds. Rangeland managers rehabilitate fire scars to desired conditions, ensuring public lands remain productive, functional ecosystems that provide for wildlife, grazing and recreation. Several native wildlife ESA candidate species, including sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit, are sagebrush-obligates and are sensitive to habitat disturbance, such as high severity wildfire. Restoring sagebrush habitats is essential for the survival of these species.
The Great Basin Institute provided field technicians to implement Level I Spring Inventories in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Hiking cross-country, teams collected data on hundreds of springs, assessing water quality and turbidity, source substrata, surrounding plant communities, and use by wildlife. Data on the presence of rare, endemic spring snails was also collected. Upon completion of the field surveys, the populate databases with detailed biological and hydrologic data and photo points of each spring.
In 2014, GBI signed an agreement with the National Park Service, Mojave Network (Great Basin NP, Mojave National Preserve, Lake Mead NRA, Death Valley NP, Manzanar National Historic Site, Joshua Tree NP, and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument) for Research Associate botanists to implement integrated Upland Monitoring protocol on upland areas (away from riparian areas) throughout these parks. As part of the Vital Signs Monitoring Program, standardized data on vegetation change, invasive species, and soils supports NPS management of natural resources.
Springs in Nevada’s Winnemucca District provide essential brood habitat for sage-grouse and are also valuable to other wildlife, ranching operations, hunters and recreational land users. GBI technicians take to the backcountry through prime sage-grouse habitat in order to conduct inventory and assessment of these springs. Surveys assess the condition, health and flow of springs, and provide inventories of native and invasive plants, and the environmental impact of horses, cattle, and humans. This work provides the BLM with spring assessment data, detailing habitat vitality and potential threats to the health of these important sources of life in the arid backcountry.
Research Associates mapped, documented and measured the health of more than 300 springs in the BLM’s Winnemucca District.
GBI Ecosystem Monitoring Specialists identify riparian-wetland problem areas and/or management issues in accordance with BLM Land-Use Plan Management Objectives and Resource Advisory Council Standards and Guidelines. The PFC assessment involves qualitative assessment of riparian-wetland areas to determine the accepted minimal standard of functioning condition for streams. A standard checklist is used to assess characteristics regarding hydrology, vegetation, and soils of each site. Data gathered support adaptive management actions, and lead to construction of riparian exclosures in target grazing allotments, which are later used to compare plant growth and composition with areas left open to grazing.
GBI Research Associates analyze water flow, quality, soils, bank stability and vegetation in order to assess Proper Functioning Condition.
At Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, “fossil” water flows from a vast underground aquifer into the springs, supporting the refuge’s many endemic species. GBI monitors the output, measuring quantity and assessing quality of water at major springs and wells across the refuge. At Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, GBI RA collected surface water, ground water, weather, plant inventory and soil data in order to characterize soils, determine water quality and characteristics, establish vegetation types, and estimate evapotranspiration (ET) for the refuge. Using wetland maps from the National Wetland Inventory and USGS studies of ET for other locations in Nevada, the RAs establish ET rates for the lakes on the refuge.
GBI Research Associates have supported the monitoring and management of designated wilderness areas in Ely BLM district since 2004. GBI has supported the writing of wilderness plans and NEPA clearances for wilderness projects. Other projects include installing and maintaining signs, and monitoring wilderness boundaries, visitor use, vehicle trespass, and guide activities. RAs also provide outreach and education to wilderness users.