Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Desired Plant Community

The desired plant community is selected as the one species composition that is most compatible with management objectives for a site. This decision depends on the relative value expected to be obtained from alternative land uses, as well as the feasibility of implementing actions required to change the present vegetation to a more desirable type. It is unlikely that the desired plant community would feature substandard levels of soil protection, as indicated by an unsatisfactory site conservation rating, because it is assumed that maintaining site potential should be an intrinsic goal of any management plan.

Concepts associated with the desired plant community recognizes that current methods to assess the status of rangeland resources do not always adequately reflect management goals, particularly those attempting to reconcile the conflicts of multiple uses such as livestock grazing, water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreation. The other strength of the desired plant community concept is it accepts that more than one species composition of the vegetation is possible at a site, which conforms to the widely accepted state-and-transition model at the center of current ecological theory. Various types of vegetation composition correspond to the various "states", and management actions required to alter species composition are the "transitions".

Therefore, the desired plant community represents the benchmark against which to compare existing vegetation and provides a system to evaluate the success of current practices in meeting management objectives. The desired plant community approach should be used as complementary information that specifically addresses management goals, rather than as a replacement to assessing ecological status, for example range condition or rangeland health evaluations.

References and Further Reading

Borman, M.M., and D.A. Pyke. 1994. Successional theory and the desired plant community approach. Rangelands 16:82-84.

National Research Council. 1994. Rangeland health: New methods to classify, inventory and monitor rangelands. National Academy Press. pp. 94-96.

Task Group on Unity in Concepts and Terminology. 1995. New concepts for assessment of range condition. Journal of Range Management 48:271-282.

Westoby, M., B. Walker, and I. Noy-Meir. 1989. Opportunistic management for rangelands not at equilibrium. Journal of Range Management 42:226-274.