A team of vegetation ecologists who serve on the Ecological Society of America’s U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) met in Baltimore Oct 27-29 to review a comprehensive set of mid-level vegetation types for the country. The middle level units are based on regional species pools that have been sorted through biogeographic and ecological drivers (regional climate, topo-edaphic factors, and geologic substrates) of species composition and growth forms. The meeting focused on the macrogroup level. A macrogroup is defined by “moderate sets of diagnostic plant species and diagnostic growth forms that reflect biogeographic differences in composition and sub-continental to regional differences in mesoclimate, geology, substrates, hydrology, and disturbance regimes.”
Beginning in late 2013, NatureServe staff drafted a description for ~160 macrogroups that covered all vegetation, from alpine to deserts to forests, grasslands and wetlands. Then the ESA peer review board solicited peer review comments from over 60 peer reviewers, coordinating the process with Canadian NVC members. NatureServe staff and ESA board members then collaborated to revise the descriptions, but flagged all macrogroups for which concepts were problematic. Those macrogroups formed the core agenda for the Baltimore meeting, where seven NatureServe staff and 20 peer review board members met to go over issues and produce a resolution. Based on that meeting, the macrogroup descriptions were revised and are type concepts are now essentially completed.
Next steps include a final review of the Group level, the level below macrogroup, and its integration with the lowest levels of the USNVC (alliance and association). That work should be completed in spring of 2015. From there, the USNVC partners will push for a full release of the USNVC in the fall of 2015.
For those not familiar with the USNVC, here’s a bit of background.
Panel members have organized a booth where participants in this year’s ESA Annual Meeting can learn more about the US National Vegetation Classification. Please visit our booth in the Exhibit Hall to get involved and view demonstrations of how the classification can be applied.
Daniel S. Wovcha , Norman E. Aaseng , Michael Lee , Tom Philippi and Scott R. Abella
The official workshop description is below, and there is still space available! We hope to see you there…..
The National Vegetation Classification (NVC) is an hierarchical classification system of all natural or semi-natural vegetation in the United States widely used by federal and state conservation agencies, NGOs, and practicing vegetation ecologists. The NVC is a process standard, as opposed to a content standard, and employs a peer-review system for development and modification. All proposed additions or modifications require the submission of a monograph with vegetation analyses on publicly available vegetation data. These data currently reside in a multitude of dispersed databases hosted by state and federal agencies, NGOs, and universities. In this workshop participants will learn the skills necessary to (1) query vegetation data from multiple sources, (2) reconcile the synonymy of species identifications in the data into a single commonly accepted system, (3) combine data from multiple strata or ecologically equivalent species, (4) reconcile and standardize environmental data, and (5) prepare the data for analysis in PC-Ord or R. Participants will work hands-on with multiple vegetation data sets selected for this exercise, and learn how to use R, Excel, or Access to reformat, reclassify, and structure the data into files suitable for analysis. We will address ecological issues of plot data quality, variable plot sizes, variability in taxonomic resolution, differing species abundance codes, different systems of landforms, topographic position, and soil properties, among others. Participants will leave the workshop with a full understanding of both the ecological and technical details necessary to work with publicly available data in support of the NVC.
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) has a new agreement with the US Geological Survey to support a pilot project in which regional vegetation data will be analyzed to develop a proposal for new types to be inducted into the US National Vegetation Classification (USNVC); this pilot will develop a peer review process that can be used for future proposed changes to the USNVC. Several members of the ESA Panel on Vegetation Classification will to working on this project, including Dr. Robert Peet at UNC-Chapel Hill and Don Faber-Langendoen at NatureServe.
This pilot project will involve conducting analyses to identify new types and perform modifications to types currently described in the USNVC, ensuring the data used in the analysis is placed into VegBank (www.vegbank.org), the Panel’s public and permanent plot archive, managing the peer review process, and reporting the decisions made, process used, and recommendations for a formalized peer review process for the USNVC.
The first planning teleconference meeting for this project was held on September 26th, 2012. Two sections of Robert Peet’s southeast dataset on longleaf pine were selected for the project. The team is still in the process of cleaning up the data and finalizing the analysis. The first round of proposed changes to these types is scheduled to be completed by mid-May 2013, and the peer review process will begin immediately after the submittal of that work.
The ESA Panel was very active at the ESA meeting in Portland, OR (August 5-10, 2012). Below are some links to the various activities and sessions that the Vegetation Classification Panel organized, including a workshop, field trip, symposium, and exhibit hall booth:
This workshop addressed different techniques of sample allocation and covered the process and strategy for implementing a vegetation sampling strategy using the National Vegetation Classification.
FT 5 – Allocating Vegetation Sample Plots: A Demonstration of Effective Field Sampling Design in the Oregon Cascades
This field trip addressed effective methods of selecting vegetation sampling locations in a natural landscape. It accompanied the half day workshop on vegetation sample allocation above, and was very well-attended. The workshop achieved its objective to demonstrate the interaction of existing field data, GIS-based allocation, and follow-up opportunistic sampling to develop a representative landscape-level approach to sampling vegetation in a natural landscape.
This symposium was very popular at the meeting and brought together scholars who confront a wide range of data showing change in vegetation.
Booth on the NVC and Vegbank in the Exhibit Hall
Panel members staffed the booth, where attendees were able to learn more about the NVC and get help with adding their data to VegBank.
Members of the ESA Vegetation Classification Panel conducted a one-day workshop on the US National Vegetation Classification (NVC) on March 20th at the Denver Federal Center. The workshop was aimed at midcareer federal agency managers and provided an open forum for participants to discuss the NVC’s uses and challenges. Panel members were also able to present case studies demonstrating how the NVC can help a variety of federal agencies meet their business needs. The thirty-five attendees represented a variety of agencies and groups, including: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML), National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).