In the our latest newsletter, we introduce a new way of organizing our science and restoration priorities, called the Freese Scale for Grassland Restoration. Developed by conservation biologist Dr. Curt Freese along with colleagues Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf of Oklahoma State University and Dr. Kyran Kunkel of University of Montana, the scale is a framework that will help biodiversity-focused land managers to evaluate their properties and track progress towards creating a fully functioning, native prairie ecosystem.
How does it work?
The Freese Scale measures, on a scale of 1 to 7, how close we are to biodiversity-centered management of the Reserve in comparison to lands managed for uses such as agriculture or natural resource extraction. The scale looks at 10 different ecosystem processes or concepts, each of which are given a 1-7 rating on a section of the Reserve. Each year, Reserve staff and a variety of partners will work together to score our management units according to the scale. This way, we can record, retain and track how management decisions impact the land and identify areas or processes that need attention, additional research or action.
What’s being measured?
There are 10 ecosystem processes or concepts that the scale addresses. A longer background document will soon be available on our website and provides an in-depth look at each item. However, in short, we are measuring our progress in the following areas:
- Prairie Vegetation – moving from soil and vegetation managed for production to native plant diversity and underlying processes
- Herbivory Patterns – moving from uniform grazing to natural grazing patterns that help create habitat diversity
- Fire – moving from no or infrequent fires to periodic fires on the landscape.
- Hydrology – moving from dammed and degraded streams to natural water flows and associated aquatic species
- Temporal Ecological Variability – moving from management that dampens effects of weather extremes to restoring the role of extreme temperature and moisture flux
- Herbivorous Mammals – moving from livestock as the most common mammalian herbivore to natural populations of native grazers
- Fate of Ungulates – moving from most ungulates (livestock) being removed to wild ungulates consumed by predators and scavengers and decomposition on the land
- Big Predators – moving from no or few big predators to natural populations of big predators
- Habitat Contiguity – moving from fences and other structures that fragment habitats to vast landscapes undivided by artificial structures
- Size of Management Units – moving from many small managed areas to large areas with coordinated land management aimed at restoring and conserving biodiversity
Our goal is that the Freese Scale will become a common language between American Prairie Reserve, our partners and supporters like you. In early 2014, you’ll notice that the science section of our website will be reorganized to reflect the scale and the 10 terms above. We’re excited to get started and look forward to sharing our progress with you in new and concrete ways.