Monitoring for Change in Yellowstone: Connecting Historic Shrub/Steppe Data and Future Vegetation Monitoring

Event Type: 
GNLCC Webinar
Date and Time: 
May 9, 2012 (All day)

Time: 12:00-1:30 PM Mountain Time
Presenters: Roy Renkin, Yellowstone National Park; Pam Sikkink, USDA Forest Service; and Geneva Chong, US Geological Survey

A 2002 National Research Council (NRC) evaluation of ungulate management practices in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) specifically concluded that previous (1957 to present) vegetation monitoring efforts were insufficient to determine whether climate or ungulates were more influential on shrub/steppe dynamics in the northern ungulate winter range. The NRC further recommended that the National Park Service employ more contemporary and acceptable “range” monitoring efforts into the future that allow for more deterministic analyses of vegetation change.

In response to these recommendations, we have been sampling YNP’s winter range with a variety of protocols that are more robust than the historic method of sampling but that offer their own challenges to those who monitor vegetation in the park in the future. As we prepare for possible climate changes affecting the park vegetation, we are also challenged to tie a half century of data that already exists for the northern ungulate winter range to new sampling techniques and preserve a long-term record of the shrub/steppe community in YNP.

Ultimately, vegetation monitoring in the park will need to be done on a landscape scale. We have started a modeling effort that models how non-native species have spread across the northern range and where they may be predicted to spread. Future work will include tying the field data and community distributions to satellite images so that monitoring can rely less on labor-intensive field studies.