Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ES&R) and Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) treatments are short-term, high-intensity treatments designed to mitigate the adverse effects of wildfire on public lands. The federal government expends significant resources implementing ES&R and BAER treatments after wildfires; however, recent reviews have found that existing data from monitoring and research are insufficient to evaluate the effects of these activities. The purpose of this report is to: (1) document what monitoring methods are generally used by personnel in the field; (2) describe approaches and methods for post-fire vegetation and soil monitoring documented in agency manuals; (3) determine the common elements of monitoring programs recommended in these manuals; and (4) describe a common monitoring approach to determine the effectiveness of future ES&R and BAER treatments in non-forested regions.
Both qualitative and quantitative methods to measure effectiveness of ES&R treatments are used by federal land management agencies. Quantitative methods are used in the field depending on factors such as funding, personnel, and time constraints. There are seven vegetation monitoring manuals produced by the federal government that address monitoring methods for (primarily) vegetation and soil attributes. These methods vary in their objectivity and repeatability. The most repeatable methods are point-intercept, quadrat-based density measurements, gap intercepts, and direct measurement of soil erosion. Additionally, these manuals recommend approaches for designing monitoring programs for the state of ecosystems or the effect of management actions. The elements of a defensible monitoring program applicable to ES&R and BAER projects that most of these manuals have in common are objectives, stratification, control areas, random sampling, data quality, and statistical analysis.
The effectiveness of treatments can be determined more accurately if data are gathered using an approach that incorporates these six monitoring program design elements and objectives, as well as repeatable procedures to measure cover, density, gap intercept, and soil erosion within each ecoregion and plant community. Additionally, using a common monitoring program design with comparable methods, consistently documenting results, and creating and maintaining a central database for query and reporting, will ultimately allow a determination of the effectiveness of post-fire rehabilitation activities region-wide.