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Plant Species Inventory

from the USDA-ARS Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems


A plot level species inventory is intended to provide a rapid appraisal of the floral biodiversity of an area. Species level inventory occurs in conjunction with other survey methods such as line-point intercept transect survey, which quantitatively measures soil cover and plant canopy cover. The same plots developed for the line-point intercept inventory are used in the species level inventory. If the species inventory is part of a National Resources Inventory (NRI) survey, which primarily focuses on tracking the encroachment of invasive species on private rangeland, the plots should be divided into sections with an area of 1,641 m2 to ensure compatibility. A single observer systematically and uniformly searches the entire plot for 15 minutes.

Each of the these plot layouts achieve an area of 1,641 m2 as part of an NRI survey. The dashed lines represent paths walked by the observer.

Advantages and Limitations

This method is a compromise between the more thorough yet time intensive modified Whitaker species richness approach and the more approximate estimates of biodiversity achieved through canopy level inventories, which often fail to accurately account for the presence of rare or invasive species. A high level of plant identification competence is necessary to efficiently inventory a plot. Unknown species are flagged as such during the inventory and are later identified, which can obviate the time saving achieved through the 15 minute time limit placed on observation.

As stated earlier, a species level inventory is used in association with other inventory methods such as the line-point intercept transect survey or cover estimates. A complete census enumerates the entire population eliminating sampling error, but at the expense of considerable investment in resources. Often only invasive or rare species are enumerated.

Data Entry and Management

Electronic record keeping is recommended. The Database for Inventory, Monitoring & Assessment (DIMA) contains can be downloaded as an MS Access database here. It is compatible with PDAs and tablets. Alternatively, a paper version of the species inventory form can printed from the Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems.



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field_methods/plant_species_inventory.1391131558.txt.gz · Last modified: 2014/01/30 18:25 by jgh