National standards for vegetation classification and mapping: Applications to management.
ABSTRACT- Implementation of Forest Service policies and regulations requires knowledge about current vegetation composition, structure, and patterns that are provided through existing vegetation classifications and maps. Ecosystem assessment and land management planning at national and regional extents require consistent standards for classification and mapping of existing vegetation. Implementation of classification and mapping standards should result in increased efficiency, accuracy, and defensibility of resource planning, implementation, and monitoring activities. A standard existing vegetation classification system can provide a consistent framework for cataloguing, describing, and mapping plant communities. This will allow us to describe and map fundamental units of vegetation that can be interpreted to address numerous land management issues. Existing vegetation classifications and maps can provide basic descriptions of ecosystem structure, composition, and processes. Examples include (1) describing plant community diversity and patterns at multiple scales, (2) documenting successional relationships of plant communities, and (3) describing the effects of natural disturbances and human activities on species and community distributions. Such information provides a basis for assessing resource conditions and land use planning. Assessment and planning needs include (1) evaluating forest and rangeland health, (2) assessing risks for invasive species, fire, insects, and disease, (3) conducting watershed analysis, and (4) identifying ecologically significant and achievable objectives for forest management plans and projects. The basic and applied knowledge provided by the above activities can be used to select appropriate criteria for resource monitoring, develop more efficient sampling designs, and improve our interpretation of monitoring results.
Key words: vegetation mapping, vegetation classification, land management
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