Students will discuss the development of ecological principles and
concepts that pertain to the vegetation of rangeland ecosystems. Concepts
discussed will include:
- development of plant community concepts
- secondary and primary succession
- vegetation classification
- role of disturbance in community function
- concepts related to ecological (range) condition and trend, and
- broad-scale management application of ecological concepts
Application of these concepts to land management will be illustrated
through examples and during a field trip. Student will gain experience in
critical evaluation and application of scientific literature.
What are Rangelands?
Rangelands are a kind of land dominated by specific types of vegetation, and
NOT a type of land use. They include “land on which the indigenous vegetation
(climax or natural potential) is predominantly grasses, grass-like plants,
forbs, or shrubs and is managed as a natural ecosystem. Rangelands include
grasslands, savannas, shrublands, many deserts, arctic tundra, mountain alpine
communities, marshes and meadows” (Society for Range Management Glossary of
Terms, 4th edition. 1998). The environment is often dominated by an arid or
semi-arid moisture regime. However, some grasslands and marshes occur in more
mesic environments. Traditionally some woodlands such as those dominated by
mesquite, pinyon-juniper and oak have also been included.
The course is intended to be completed within the University of Idaho
semester timeframe. The material is divided into 22 lessons that focus on general
topics. In each Lesson module you will find the following
- A list of learning objectives for that module
- Reading assignments
- A PowerPoint presentation
- Assignments associated with that lesson (Note: Not all lessons have
specific assignments associated with that specific material.)
Lessons include the following topics:
- What is a community
- Foundations of community ecology
- Biological soil crusts
- Mineral cycles and nutrient cycling
- The soil environment
- Plant nutrition and growth
- Vegetation classification
- Disturbance ecology
- Biological invasions
- Biological diversity
- Ecosystem health and sustainability
The students’ grades in the class will be determined through the use of
a midterm exam (1), written assignments (2), a field project, and a final exam.
Barbour, M.G., J.H. Burk, W.D. Pitts, F.S. Gilliam and M.W. Schwartz.
1999. Terrestrial plant ecology- Third edition. Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo
The text is written from a general plant ecology perspective and is not
specific to rangeland ecology. Consequently, some topics of importance to
rangelands are not discussed or only discussed briefly. In order to
supplement the text in these areas, additional readings from journals,
symposia proceedings and experiment station bulletins will be assigned. See
list at the end of this syllabus. I will attempt to select additional
reading materials that are either available online or through the electronic
subscriptions currently held by the University of Idaho Library.
See the Supplemental Reading List below.
The midterm exam and the final exam are open note and open book but not
“open classmate”. The exams will be posted on the web for 2 days and you can
log on any time during this period. Once you have logged on, you will have a
specified amount of time in which to complete the exam and return it to me.
Consequently, you cannot rely too heavily on your open notes and text, and
complete the exam in time. The exams will be composed of multiple choice,
definitions, and short answer questions. All exams will be comprehensive.
Two assignments and a field project are required as part of the course. All assignments must
be submitted electronically as MS Word documents through Blackboard.
must be written in the format of a technical report.
Consequently, all tables, figures, and literature citations within the
documents must follow the
Style Guide and the text organization must follow commonly used
scientific writing guidelines. If you have forgotten these points of
technical writing, refer to recent issues of Ecology, Rangeland Ecology and
Management, or other ecological journals for examples. They will be graded
in terms of the factors described in Table 1. Unexcused late submission of
assignments will be subject to a late penalty (1-5 days: -10%, 6-10 days
-30%, 11-15 days -50%.). Some assignments will require that you find
scientific journal and other information sources to support your
Ecological condition and trend: In this
assignment the students are given a monitoring data set collected at 4 time
periods. They are asked to calculate ecological condition and trend, and
interpret the results.
2- Decision-making guide: In this assignment
the students must develop a guide to assist managers in making an ecological
decision using the literature. This is a group project with up to 5 people
The field project will focus on the causes and effects of vegetation change.
Vegetation change may be initiated by disturbance, driven by secondary
succession or caused by a change in land management. The site's vegetation
composition will be sampled. Students will then project expected vegetation
change (plant species composition change) into the future given a specific
scenario such as a wildfire or change in management. The students will
select a site that is accessible and convenient for them to use. The site
chosen must be dominated (or in the case of restoration have the potential
to be dominated) by rangeland vegetation (e.g. grassland, shrub steppe,
meadow, woodland, desert, semi-desert, etc.). Riparian vegetation may be
used if the site is located in a rangeland context. For those not familiar
with the local area around Moscow, I have described a number of rangeland
sites found on areas open to the public at the end of this document.
However, since these are public areas, destructive vegetation sampling
methods should not be used.
There will be threaded discussions on available on topics during the semester
to allow students to seek help with various specific questions that they
have. These discussions are voluntary and meant to provide a forum for
exchange of ideas and information between students in the class and myself.
The discussions are not graded. I will create small groups (3-5 people) to
work together on the Decision-making Guide. Discussion 4 will only members
of your group and myself and is intended to facilitate the development of
Discussion 1 -
General course questions and comments
Discussion 2 - Field Project
Discussion 3 - Assignment 1:
Ecological condition and trend
Discussion 4 - Assignment 2:
Students’ grades will be determined by the following:
of Final Grade
Midterm Exam 1
Project scenario (submitted a a written
Sampling design (submitted as a written
Data analysis & presentation (submitted
as a written assignment)
Final Project Report (submitted as a
Ecological Trend Assignment
Decision-Making Guide Assignment
Final grade will be assigned as follows:
< 60 %
Disability Support Services
Reasonable accommodations are available for students who have a
documented disability. Please notify the instructor during the first week of
class of any accommodation(s) needed for the course. Late notification may
mean that requested accommodations might not be available. All
accommodations must be approved through Disability Support Services.
Disability Support Services
Idaho Commons Building, Rm. 333.
Phone: (208) 885-6307
For more information go to: http://www.access.uidaho.edu
Supplemental Reading Material
Journal articles, bulletins and other sources
Belnap, J., J.H. Kaltenecker, R. Rosentreter, J. Williams, S.
Leonard and D. Eldridge. 2001. Biological soil crusts: ecology and
management. USDI Bureau of Land Management, US Geological Survey Tech
Ref 1730-2, Chapter 1, Chapter 2 (pp 11-23) and Chapter 3.
Briske, D.D, S.D. Fuhlendorf and F.E. Smeins. 2003.
Vegetation dynamics on rangelands: a critique of the current paradigms.
Journal of Applied Ecology 40:601-614.
Brown, J.K., and J. Kapler Smith, eds. 2000. Wildland fire in
ecosystems: effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol 2.
Ogden, UT: US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rocky Mountain
Research Station. 250 p. [Read Chap 1 (pp 1-8), Chap 2 (pp 9-34), Chap 9
Christensen, N.L., A.M. Bartuska, J.H. Brown, S. Carpenter, C.
D'Antonio, R. Francis, J.F. Franklin, J.A.MacMahon, R.F. Noss, D.J.
Parsons, C.H. Peterson, M.G. Turner and R.G. Woodmansee. 1996. The
report of the Ecological Society of America committee on the scientific
basis for ecosystem management. Ecological Applications 6:665-691.
Joyce, L.A. 1993. The life cycle of the range condition
concept. Journal of Range Management 46:132-138.
Mack, R.N., D. Simberloff, W.M. Lonsdale, H. Evans, M. Clout and
F.A. Bazzaz. 2006. Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global
consequences, and control. Ecological Applications 10:689-710.
Neary, D.G., K.C. Ryan, L.F. DeBano, eds. 2005. Wildland fire
in ecosystems: effects of fire on soil and water. Gen. Tech. Rep.
RMRS-GTR-42-vol 4. Ogden, UT: US Department of Agriculture Forest
Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 257 p. [Read Chap 1 (pp 1-17),
Chap 2 (pp 29-40), Chap 3 (pp 53-71), Chap 4 (pp 73-91]
Miller, R.F., J. D. Bates, T.J. Svejcar, F.B. Pierson, L.E.
Eddleman. 2005. Biology, ecology and management of western juniper.
Oregon State University, Agricultural Experiment Station Tech Bull 152.
77p. (Focus on pages 20-34.)
Polley, H.W. 1997. Implications of rising atmospheric carbon
dioxide concentration for rangelands. J. Range Management 50:561-577.
Pyke, D.A., J.E. Herrick, P. Shaver and M. Pellant. 2002.
Rangeland health attributes and indicators for qualitative assessment.
Journal of Range Management 55:584-597.
Sutherland, S. 2004. What makes a weed a weed: life history
traits of native and exotic plants in the USA. Oecologia 141:24-39.
West, N.E. 1993. Biodiversity of rangelands. Journal of Range
American Institute of Biological Sciences. 2002. Biodiversity:
diversity of species. Interview with Edward O. Wilson.
Accessed April 16, 2009]
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Fire and
Resource Assessment Program (FRAP). No date. State and transition
models for California's hardwood rangelands.
Accessed April 16, 2009]
Ecological Society of America. 1997. Biodiversity.
Accessed April 16, 2009]
Haines, D.F., T.C. Esque, L.A. DeFalco, S.J. Scoles, M.L. Brooks
and R.H. Webb. No date. Fire and exotics in the Mojave Desert: an
irreversible change? A state-transition model for blackbrush (Coleogyne
ramosissima) habitat. US Geological Survey.
Accessed April 16, 2009]
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1996. Rangeland
Health. RCA Issue Brief #10.
April 16, 2009]