ASSESSMENT, INVENTORY AND MONITORING (AIM)
In order to manage renewable resources effectively, BLM and other agencies need reliable quantitative data about the status, condition, trend, amount, location, and spatial pattern of resources on the nation’s public lands. The AIM strategy seeks to create standards in resource data collection that can be shared across jurisdictions and agencies, operating in different regions. Standardized data collection allows a US Forest Service hydrologist in central Nevada to make use of riparian monitoring data gathered by the BLM in the same region, or sage-grouse biologists in Idaho to consider data collected by mule deer biologists in northern Nevada. In short, standardized data will help inform best-practice decision making for multiple resources in multiple jurisdictions, at multiple levels.
In partnership with the BLM’s National Operations Center and the ARS Jornada Experimental Range, GBI Research Associates have completed pilot applications of AIM studies in Nevada, Idaho, California and Utah. AIM strategies have been implemented in the following projects:
Land Health Assessments. In order to collect accurate information about the health of sage-grouse habitats in Nevada, Nevada BLM has deployed GBI Research Associates to collect quantitative and qualitative data on vegetation, soils, hydrology and ecosystem processes across Nevada. To date, RAs have collected detailed data on more than 1,500 survey sites across Nevada, with an additional 300 survey sites documented in Idaho, California and Utah.
To apply to join the GBI AIM team please visit: goo.gl/6edBRj
Vegetation Habitat Assessments. In partnership with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Nevada Partners for Development and Conservation, RAs lead teams of AmeriCorps field technicians to gather data in northern Nevada areas, where habitat restoration activities are scheduled to take place or are currently underway. Field crews use quantitative AIM monitoring techniques to assess restoration effectiveness over the years.
VHA crews also use AIM monitoring techniques to assess endangered and imperiled species’ habitats. Monitoring projects have include pygmy rabbit habitat that was fragmented by construction of the Ruby Pipeline across northern Nevada; Pinyon jay habitat in the Desatoya Mountains, where nest locations are being monitored; and private lands in northeastern Nevada with crucial sage-grouse habitat. In its fourth year (2014), the VHA project added an additional field crew to monitor riparian areas and restoration efforts in the Walker River watershed.
Emergency Stabilization and Restoration. GBI Research Associates monitor landscape recovery after wildfires, tracking erosion, mapping weeds and evaluating the recovery of native plant species.
The priorities of the BLM’s ES&R program are two-fold. The first objective is to stabilize soils, reducing their susceptibility to wind and water erosion in order to protect watersheds. The second objective is to rehabilitate rangelands to productive, functional ecosystems that can provide for wildlife, grazing and recreation. Several native wildlife species which are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, including sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit, are sagebrush-obligates. Restoring sagebrush habitats is essential for the survival of these species.
After wildfires scorch the landscape, GBI’s Research Associates employ AIM protocols and other methods to support these efforts in Nevada, Idaho and Northern California, identifying areas that have high risk for erosion and weeds, and monitoring the survival of native sprouts.
Mojave Inventory & Monitoring Network Spring Surveys. The Great Basin Institute provides 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 collect 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 has also been collected. Upon completion of the field surveys, the RAs build MS Access databases with detailed biological and hydrologic data and photos of each spring.
Northern Nevada Spring Surveys. 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 RAs hike 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 vitatlity and potential threats to the health of these important sources of life in the arid backcountry.
Mojave Network Upland Monitoring. 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, RAs collect standardized, scientifically rigorous data on vegetation change, invasive species, and soils, which will help NPS resource specialists manage the parks’ natural resources.
Proper Function Condition (PFC) Monitoring. RAs serving as Ecosystem Monitoring Specialists support resource monitoring efforts in the BLM’s Battle Mountain District. The primary task is to identify riparian-wetland problem areas and/or management issues in accordance with 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.
The RAs employ a standard checklist that addresses the hydrology, vegetation, and soils of each site. The data gathered in these assessments help the BLM identify PFC shortfalls, which can then be addressed through management actions. The RAs also construct riparian exclosures in target grazing allotments, which are later used to compare plant growth and composition with areas left open to grazing.
Riparian Monitoring. In partnership with the BLM’s Winnemucca Field Office, GBI RAs established and implemented a monitoring program to support informed range management of riparian areas recently affected by the Holloway and Hansen wildfires, and to assess the quality of streams that have been known to support populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT).
The Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) stream survey protocol is employed in order to develop a standardized, robust assessment of indicators, such as stubble height and alteration. Additional MIM parameters (e.g. greenline-to-greenline width and residual pool depth) are measured on several streams to provide a better characterization of LCT habitat. The MIM data and photographs collected establish a baseline to which future fluctuations can be compared.
Aquatic Monitoring and Management. At Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, “fossil” water flows from a vast underground aquifer into the springs of Ash Meadows. This water is a critical component of the aquatic systems supporting the refuge’s many endemic species. RAs monitor the output, measuring quantity and assessing quality of water at major springs and wells across the refuge.
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Research Associates collect 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.
Eastern Nevada Wilderness. 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.