Integrating old and new knowledge helps build a future land management system

Sep 2, 2011
by WLJ

New and competing uses of rangeland and threats to its resources have reached unprecedented levels. At the same time, we are seeing a high turnover of rangeland management staff and private lands historically handed down through families are being sold more frequently to third parties. Land knowledge accumulated over generations is being lost.

There is a need to capture and integrate existing knowledge of rangelands with newly acquired knowledge. People who have lived on the land for generations have unique insights learned by experience and passed down. New technologies have great potential to accurately collect information and share it widely. Both kinds of information must be captured and recorded and, most important, used to make effective decisions in land management.

A special issue of the journal Rangelands, which can be found at 2111/1551-501X-33.4.3, explores the possibilities of creating a knowledge system from information collected about rangelands. This knowledge system is not simply an information database residing on a server, but an evolving integration of information, tools and resources.

This issue of Rangelands describes techniques and technologies that can help form the foundation of a future land management knowledge system. Among these are a new approach to monitoring and assessment being adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and several new, easy-to-implement approaches to collecting and monitoring data. Other articles present interactive web tools, review websites that offer extensive land management knowledge, and discuss building online communities.

Mobile technologies offer new potential to directly collect data electronically in the field. This approach not only eliminates the step of transcribing data, which can introduce errors, but also helps create a consistent standard that makes data reusable for addressing other objectives. Monitoring a large landscape with methods such as remote sensing presents challenges. A new option discussed is very high resolution aerial images and new tools to analyze these that are useful to rangeland managers.

Technologies are broadening the range of possibilities for land management knowledge systems. “The challenge,” one author notes, “will be to figure out how to combine scientific and traditional knowledge sources in a way that increases understanding of rangeland systems and promotes good decisionmaking.” — WLJ