Framework for monitoring shrubland community integrity in California Mediterranean type ecosystems: Information for policy makers and land managers

Type: journal article

Article abstract: Shrublands in Mediterranean-type ecosystems worldwide support important ecosystem services including high levels of biodiversity and are threatened by multiple factors in heavily used landscapes. Use, conservation, and management of these landscapes involve diverse stakeholders, making decision processes complex. To be effective, management and land use decisions should be informed by current information on ecosystem quality and resilience. However, obtaining this information is often a challenge due to the extent of landscapes involved. Here we present a conceptual integrity monitoring framework based on simple easily observable ecosystem components readily understood by nonspecialists. Community integrity is defined by plant functional group based on relative proportion of shrubs and nonnative annual grasses. The ability to use these straightforward metrics results from four factors: relatively good alignment of characteristic bird, mammal, and insect communities with shrub cover, positive feedback between annual grasses and short fire intervals,the inhibitory effect of annual grasses on shrub seedling establishment, and similar functional group response to different disturbances. Two additional metrics, indicator species and shrub species diversity, capture subtle yet persistent signatures of disturbance on integrity not reflected in functional group composition. The framework is designed to: categorize habitats into ecosystem integrity classes, forecast likely integrity class changes caused by threats and environmental conditions,and provide a simple reporting mechanism that can be overlain with data on conservation status and vulnerabilities. The proposed framework includes a pilot phase to validate empirical relationships, thresholds, and sampling efficiency. The accessibility of these metrics to nonspecialists is anticipated to enhance communication among stakeholders and thus facilitate problem solving. Leveraging monitoring and mapping programs driven by other needs (e.g., species conservation and fire management) affords meaningful opportunities to offset program costs.

Authors: Keeley, Jon; Lawson, Dawn;

Journal title: Conservation Science and Practice

Year: 2019

Volume: e109


Keywords: ecological integrity; framework; monitoring;