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Open AccessArticle

Ecological Health Index: A Short Term Monitoring Method for Land Managers to Assess Grazing Lands Ecological Health

1
Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
2
Ovis 21, Belgrano 1585, Trevelin, Chubut 9203, Argentina
3
Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Environments 2019, 6(6), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments6060067
Received: 7 May 2019 / Revised: 31 May 2019 / Accepted: 3 June 2019 / Published: 10 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Ecosystem Services)
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Abstract

Grazing lands should be monitored to ensure their productivity and the preservation of ecosystem services. The study objective was to investigate the effectiveness of an Ecological Health Index (EHI) for assessing ecosystem ecological health in grazing lands. The EHI was developed by synthesizing existing vegetation and soil cover indicators. We implemented long-term transects at 44 farms from two ecological regions in Patagonia, the Humid Magellan Steppe (HMS) (n = 24) and Subandean Grasslands (SG) (n = 20), to collect data on established quantifiable vegetative and soil measurements and the EHI. Using known quantifiable measures, the HMS had numerically greater species richness compared to SG. Similarly, the average percentage of total live vegetation was more favorable in HMS. Correlating the EHI with these known quantifiable measures demonstrated positive correlations with species richness, the percentage of total live vegetation and carrying capacity and was negatively correlations with bare ground. These results suggest that EHI could be a useful method to detect the ecological health and productivity in grazing lands. Overall, we conclude that EHI is an effective short-term monitoring approach that ranchers could implement annually to monitor grazing lands and determine the impacts of ranch decision-making on important ecosystem indicators. View Full-Text
Keywords: grazing; ecological health; ecosystem indexes; Patagonia; grasslands; sustainability grazing; ecological health; ecosystem indexes; Patagonia; grasslands; sustainability
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Xu, S.; Rowntree, J.; Borrelli, P.; Hodbod, J.; Raven, M.R. Ecological Health Index: A Short Term Monitoring Method for Land Managers to Assess Grazing Lands Ecological Health. Environments 2019, 6, 67.

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