National Park Service

Greater Yellowstone Network (GRYN)

Upland Vegetation Monitoring

Sagebrush shrubland at Bighorn Canyon NRA
Sagebrush shrubland at Bighorn Canyon NRA
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Resource Briefs

Monitoring Reports

Protocol Documents

Monitoring Data

For more information contact: Kristin Legg


Upland vegetation consists of woodlands, shrubland (including sagebrush steppe), and grasslands. These ecosystems are often intermixed in a diverse landscape matrix, which makes them important for biological diversity, because they provide a wide range of habitats. They are also important for the ecological functions they provide – the ability to retain soil and nutrients, and absorb and release water, for example. These upland ecosystems are typically easy to disturb and slow to recover. Changes in disturbance factors, such as drought, wildfire, livestock grazing, and invasive plants can alter the structure and function of these ecosystems, and these changes may be exacerbated or accelerated by climate change. Ecosystem structure refers to the spatial arrangement of the elements in the ecosystem (such as trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs). Ecosystem function refers to the processes of how ecosystems change and interact, for example the frequency of fire, or the ability to recover after a disturbance. By monitoring these ecosystems, we can discern changes and trends that can inform decisions about land use, restoration, and weed management.

The GRYN has been monitoring sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), juniper (Juniperus spp.), and juniper-mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) upland vegetation at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area since 2011. The quality and abundance of key plant species and soil cover in these communities are considered indicators of overall rangeland health and the focus of our monitoring objectives, which are to determine their status (current condition) and trends (change in condition over time). The network has also been assisting Grand Teton National Park implement a sagebrush habitat monitoring program since 2012 as part of the climate change response program.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster