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Landscape Appearance Method

Formerly the Key Forage Plant Method


written by Karen Colson and Jason Karl

Description and Uses

The Landscape Appearance Method is used to assess utilization. This method involves taking an ocular estimate of forage utilization which is based on the general appearance of the rangeland. Utilization levels are then determined by comparing observations with written descriptions of utilization classes. There are two types of classes: 1. Herbaceous species and 2. Browse plants. Seven utilization classes are used in both types with herbaceous utilization classes showing relative degrees of use on grasses and forbs and browse plants utilization classes showing relative degrees of use of available current year’s growth (leaders) of shrubs, half shrubs, woody vines, and trees. Each class represents a numerical range of percent utilization.

This method was developed in areas where perennial grasses, forbs, and/or browse plants are present and to situations where utilization data must be obtained over large areas using only a few observers.

Advantages and Limitations

One advantage of the Landscape Appearance Method is that it is a rapid approach to collecting utilization data. If time and funding are an issue and grazing or browsing use must be estimated for large areas, this method is useful since large areas can be assessed with only a few observers.

However, this method involves personal judgment and therefore the accuracy of estimates depends on the individual making estimates. Since estimates are only as good as the training and experience of the observers, proper training is essential and observers must able to recognize the seven utilization classes for both herbaceous or browse species. Unlike other utilization and production methods, however training doesn’t necessarily require unused areas for training purposes. Another advantage is that estimates are based on a range (class) of utilization rather than a precise amount. Because of this, estimates are generally more accurate with this method compared to methods that use actual percentages since different observers are more likely to estimate utilization in the same classes than to estimate the same utilization percentages.

Another limitation is that there is no way to assess the precision of the estimate because the estimates are qualitative.

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field_methods/landscape_appearance_method.txt · Last modified: 2012/03/08 15:46 by jgillan