Long-term vegetation dynamics across public rangelands in the western United States are not well understood because of the lack of large-scale, readily available historic datasets. The Bureau of Land Management’s Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) program was implemented between 1977 and 1983 across 14 western states, but the data have not been easily accessible. We introduce the SVIM vegetation cover dataset in a georeferenced, digital format; summarize how the data were collected; and discuss potential limitations and biases. We demonstrate how SVIM data can be compared with contemporary monitoring datasets to quantify changes in vegetation associated with wildfire and the abundance of exotic invasive species. Specifically, we compare SVIM vegetation cover data with cover data collected by BLM’s Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) program (2011–2016) in a focal area in the northern Great Basin. We address issues associated with analyzing and interpreting data from these distinct programs, including differences in survey methods and potential biases introduced by spatial and temporal variation in sampling. We compared SVIM and AIM survey methods at 44 plots and found that percent cover estimates had high correspondence for all measured functional groups. Comparisons between historic SVIM data and recent AIM data documented significant declines in the occupancy and cover of native shrubs and native perennial forbs, and a significant increase in exotic annual forbs. Wildfire was a driver of change for some functional groups, with greater change occurring in AIM plots that burned between the two time periods compared with those that did not. Our results are consistent with previous studies showing that many native shrub-dominated plant communities in the Great Basin have been replaced by exotic annuals. Our study demonstrates that SVIM data will be an important resource for researchers interested in quantifying vegetation change through time across public rangelands in the western United States.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||An introduction and practical guide to use of the Soil-Vegetation Inventory Method (SVIM) data|
|Series title||Rangeland Ecology and Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center|