Attributes of reliable long-term landscape-scale studies: Malpractice insurance for landscape ecologists

  • Thomas J. Stohlgren
  • Dan Binkley
  • Thomas T. Veblen
  • William L. Baker


Monitoring long-term change in forested landscapes is an intimidating challenge with considerable practical, methodological, and theoretical limitations. Current field approaches used to assess vegetation change at the plot-to-stand scales and nationwide forest monitoring programs may not be appropriate at landscape scales. We emphasize that few vegetation monitoring programs (and, thus, study design models) are designed to detect spatial and temporal trends at landscape scales. Based primarily on advice from many sources, and trial and error, we identify 14 attributes of a reliable long-term landscape monitoring program: malpractice insurance for landscape ecologists. The attributes are to: secure long-term funding and commitment; develop flexible goals; refine objectives; pay adequate attention to information management; take an experimental approach to sampling design; obtain peer-review and statistical review of research proposals and publications; avoid bias in selection of long-term plot locations; insure adequate spatial replication; insure adequate temporal replication; synthesize retrospective, experimental, and related studies; blend theoretical and empirical models with the means to validate both; obtain periodic research program evaluation; integrate and synthesize with larger and smaller scale research, inventory, and monitoring programs; and develop an extensive outreach program. Using these 14 attributes as a guide, we describe one approach to assess the potential effect of global change on the vegetation of the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. This self-evaluation helps identify strengthes and weaknesses in our program, and may serve the same role for other landscape ecologists in other programs.


Monitoring Program Landscape Ecologist Landscape Scale Forest Monitoring Vegetation Monitoring 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agee, J.K. and Smith, L.: 1984, ‘Subalpine tree reestablishment after fire in the Olympic Mountains, Washington’, Ecology 65, 810–819.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, R.B., Peet, R.K. and Baker, W.L.: 1991, ‘Gradient analysis of latitudinal variation in southern Rocky Mountain forests’, Journal of Biogeography 18, 123–139.Google Scholar
  3. Arno, S.F. and Hammerly, R.P.: 1984, Timberline The Mountaineers, Seattle.Google Scholar
  4. Arthur, M.A.: 1990, ‘The effects of vegetation on watershed biogeochemistry at Loch Vale watershed, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado’, Ph.D. Dissertation. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 178 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Austin, M.P. and Heyligers, P.C.: 1991, ‘New approach to vegetation survey design: Gradsect sampling’, in: Margules, C.R. and Austin, M.P. (eds.), Nature Conservation: Cost Effective Biological Surveys and Data Analysis. CSIRO, Australia, pp. 31–36.Google Scholar
  6. Avissar, R. and Pielke, R.A.: 1989, ‘A parameterization of heterogeneous land surfaces for atmospheric numerical models and its impact on regional meterology’, Mon. Wea. Rev. 117, 2113–2136.Google Scholar
  7. Baker, W.L.: 1990, ‘Climatic and hydrologic effects on the regeneration of Populus angustifolia James along the Animas River, Colorado’, J. Biogeogr. 17, 59–73.Google Scholar
  8. Baron, J. (ed.): 1991, ‘The Loch Vale Watershed Ecosystem’, Ecological Studies Series, Springer-Verlag, NY.Google Scholar
  9. Beanlands, G.E., and Duinker, P.N.: 1983, ‘An ecological framework for environmental impact assessment in Canada’. Dalhousie University Institute of Resource and Environmental Studies and Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office, Halifax, Nova Scotia.Google Scholar
  10. Benedict, J.B.: 1984, ‘Rates of tree-island migration, Colorado Rocky Mountains, USA’, Ecology 65, 820–823.Google Scholar
  11. Bennett, R.J.: 1979, Spatial Time Series: Analysis — Forecasting — Control. Pion Limited. London, Great Britain.Google Scholar
  12. Berkowitz, A.R., Kolosa, K., Peters, R.H. and Pickett, S.T.A.: 1989, ‘How far in space and time can the results from a single long-term study be extrapolated’, in: Likens, G.E. (ed.), Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, pp. 192–198.Google Scholar
  13. Cochran, W.G.: 1977, Sampling techniques, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY, pp. 327–358.Google Scholar
  14. Comanor, P.L. and Gregg, W.P., Jr.: 1992, ‘Role of U.S. National Parks in global change research’, George Wright Forum 9, 67–74.Google Scholar
  15. Cormack, R.M. and Ord, J.K. (eds.): 1979, Spatial and Temporal Analysis in Ecology. International Co-operative Publishing House, Fairland, MD.Google Scholar
  16. Cornelius, J.M. and Reynolds, J.F.: 1991, ‘On determining the statistical significance of discontinuities within ordered ecological data’, Ecology 72, 2057–2070.Google Scholar
  17. Cressie, N.: 1991, Statistics For Spatial Data. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  18. Davis, M.B.: 1986, ‘Climatic instability, time lags, and community disequilibrium’, in: Diamond, J. and Case, T.J. (eds.), Community Ecology. New York: Harper and Row, pp. 269–284.Google Scholar
  19. Dallmeier, F. (ed.): 1992, Long-term Monitoring of Biological Diversity in Tropical Forest Areas: Methods For Establishment and Inventory of Permanent Plots. MAB Digest 11. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, France.Google Scholar
  20. Eamus, D. and Jarvis, P.G.: 1989, ‘The direct effects of increase in the global atmospheric CO2 concentration on natural and commercial temperate trees and forests’, Advances in Ecological Research, 1–55.Google Scholar
  21. Eberhardt, L.L. and Thomas, J.M.: 1991, ‘Designing environmental field studies’, Ecological Monographs 61 (1), 53–73.Google Scholar
  22. Fortin, M.J., Drapeau, P. and Legendre, P.: 1989, ‘Spatial autocorrelation and sampling design in plant ecology’, Vegetation 83, 209–222.Google Scholar
  23. Franklin, J.F., Bledsoe, C.S. and Callahan, J.T.: 1990, ‘Contributions of the Long-Term Ecological Research Program’, BioScience 40, 509–523.Google Scholar
  24. Franklin, J.F. and DeBell, D.S.: 1988, ‘Thirty-six years of tree population change in an old-growth Pseudotsuga-Tsuga forest’, Can. J. For. Res. 18, 633–639.Google Scholar
  25. Franklin, J.F., MacMahon, J.A., Swanson, F.J. and Sedell, J.R.: 1985, ‘Ecosystem responses to the cruption of Mount St. Helens’, National Geographic Research 1, 198–216.Google Scholar
  26. Fritts, H.C.: 1976, Tree-Rings and Climate, Academic Press, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  27. Graybill, D.A.: 1992, ‘Coniferous forests of the Colorado Front Range. Part A. Mixed species in unmanaged old-growth stands’, in: Olson, R., Binkley, D., and Böhm, M. (eds.), The Response of Western Forests to Air Pollution, Springer-Verlag, NY, pp. 365–384.Google Scholar
  28. Hadley, K.S. and Veblen, T.T.: 1993. ‘Stand response to western spruce budworm and Douglas-fir bark beetle outbreaks, Colorado Front Range’, Can. J. For. Res. 23, 479–491.Google Scholar
  29. Hansen, A.J. and di Castri, F. (eds.): 1993, Landscape boundaries. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  30. Haslett, J. and Raftery, A.E.: 1989, ‘Space-time modelling with long-memory dependence: Assessing Ireland's wind power resource’, Applied Statistics 38, 1–21.Google Scholar
  31. Haury, L.R., McGowen, J.A. and Wiebe, P.H.: 1978, ‘Patterns and processes in the time-space scales of plankton distributions’, in: Steele, J.H. (ed.), Spatial Pattern in Plankton Communities. Plenum, New York, NY, pp. 277–327.Google Scholar
  32. Hawk, G.M., Franklin, J.F., McKee, W.A. and Brown, R.B.: 1978, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest reference stand system: establish and use history. USDA Forest Service Bulletin 12. U.S. International Biosphere Program.Google Scholar
  33. Hinds, W.T.: 1984, ‘Towards monitoring of long-term trends in terrestrial ecosystems’, Environmental Conservation 11, 11–18.Google Scholar
  34. Holland, M.M., Risser, P.G. and Naiman, R.J. (eds.): 1991, Ecotones. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY. 142 pp.Google Scholar
  35. Hurlbert, S.H.: 1984, ‘Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments’, Ecological Monographs 54, 187–211.Google Scholar
  36. Ives, J.D. and Hansen-Bristow, K.J.: 1983, ‘Stability and instability of natural and modified upper timber landscapes in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, USA.’, Mountain Research and Development 3, 149–155.Google Scholar
  37. Johnson, E.A. and Larson, C.P.S.: 1991, ‘Climatically induced change in fire frequency in the southern Canadian Rockies’, Ecology 72, 194–201.Google Scholar
  38. Jones, K.B.: 1986. ‘The inventory and monitoring process’, in: Cooperrider, A.Y., Boyde, R.J. and Stuart, H.R. (eds.), Inventory and Monitoring of Wildlife Habitat. USDI Bureau of Land Management. Service Center, Denver, CO, pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
  39. Kareiva, P.M. and Anderson, M.: 1988, ‘Spatial aspects of species interactions: the wedding of models and experiments’, in: Hastings, A. (ed.), Community Ecology. Lecture Notes in Biomathematics 77. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany, pp. 35–50.Google Scholar
  40. Krebs, C.J.: 1989, Ecological Methodology. Harper & Row, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  41. Le, N.D. and Zidek, J.V.: 1992, ‘Interpolation with uncertain spatial covariances: a Bayesian alternative to Kriging’, Journal of Multivariate Analysis 43, 351–374.Google Scholar
  42. Legendre, P. and Fortin, M.J.: 1989, ‘Spatial pattern and ecological analysis’, Vegetatio 80, 107–138.Google Scholar
  43. Levin, S.A.: 1992, ‘The problem of pattern and scale in ecology’, Ecology 73, 1943–1967.Google Scholar
  44. Likens, G.E. (ed.): 1991, Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  45. Likens, G.E., Bormann, F.H., Pierce, R.S. and Eaton, J.S.: 1985, ‘The Hubbard Brook Valley’, in: Likens, G.E. (ed.), An Ecosystem Approach to Aquatic Ecology: Mirror Lake and its Environment. Springer-Verlag, New York Inc., New York, pp. 9–39.Google Scholar
  46. MacDonald, L.H., Smart, A.W. and Wissmar, R.C.: 1991, ‘Monitoring guidelines to evaluate effects of forestry activities on streams in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska’, USEPA Report EPA/910/9-91-001, Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  47. Madole, R.F.: 1976, ‘Glacial geology of the Front Range, Colorado’, in: Mahaney, W.C. (ed.), Quaternary Stratigraphy of North America. Dowden, Hutchison and Ross, Stroudsburg, PA, pp. 319–351.Google Scholar
  48. Marr, J.W.: 1977, ‘The development and movement of tree islands near the upper limit of tree growth in the southern Rocky Mountains’, Ecology 58, 1159–1164.Google Scholar
  49. Messer, J.J., Linthurst, R.A. and Overton, W.S.: 1991, ‘An EPA program for monitoring ecological status and trends’, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 17, 67–78.Google Scholar
  50. National Science Foundation (NSF).: 1977, Long-Term measurements: Report of a Conference. National Science Foundation Directorate for Biological, Behavioral, and Social Sciences, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  51. Nichols, H.: 1982, ‘Review of late Quaternary history of vegetation and climate in the mountains of Colorado’, in: Halfpenny, J.C. (ed.), Ecological Studies in the Colorado Alpine: A Festschrift for John W. Marr. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research Occasional Paper No. 37. Boulder, CO, pp. 27–33.Google Scholar
  52. Palmer, C.J., Ritters, K.H., Strickland, J., Cassell, D.C., Byers, G.E., Papp, M.L. and Liff, C.I.: 1991, Monitoring and research strategy for forests — Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). EPA/600/4-91/012. US EPA, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  53. Palmer, M.W.: 1993, ‘Potential biases in site and species selection for ecological monitoring’. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 26, 277–282.Google Scholar
  54. Peet, R.K.: 1981, ‘Forest Vegetation of the Colorado Front Range’, Vegetatio 45, 3–75.Google Scholar
  55. Peet, R.K.: 1988, ‘Forests of the Rocky Mountains’, in Barbour, M.G. and Billings, W.D. (eds.), North American Terrestrial Vegetation. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY, pp. 63–101.Google Scholar
  56. Peters, R.L. and Lovejoy, T.E. (eds.): 1992, Global Warming and Biological Diversity. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
  57. Peterson, D.L. and Arbaugh, M.J.: 1992, ‘Coniferous forests of the Colorado Front Range. Part B. Ponderosa pine second-growth stands’, in: Olson, R., Binkley, D. and Böhm, M. (eds.), The Response of Western Forests to Air Pollution, Springer-Verlag, NY, pp. 385–401.Google Scholar
  58. Pickett, S.T.A.: 1989, ‘Space-for-time substitution as an alternative to long-term studies’, in: Likens, G.E. (ed.), Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, pp. 110–135.Google Scholar
  59. Pickett, S.T.A. and White, P.S. (eds.): 1985, The Ecology of Natural Disturbance and Patch Dynamics. Academic Press, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  60. Powell, T.M.: 1989, ‘Physical and biological scales of variability in Lakes, Estuaries, and the coastal ocean’, in: Roughgarden, J., May, R.M. and Levin, S.A. (eds.), Perspectives in Ecological Theory. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ, pp. 157–176.Google Scholar
  61. Prentice, C.: 1993, ‘Climate and long-term vegetation dynamics’, in: Glenn-Lewin, D.C., Peet, R.A. and Veblen, T.T. (eds.), Plant Succession: Theory and Prediction. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY, pp. 293–339.Google Scholar
  62. Prescott, C.E., Corbin, J.P. and Parkinson, D.: 1989, ‘Biomass, productivity, and nutrient-use efficiency of aboveground vegetation in four Rocky Mountain coniferous forests’, Canadian Journal of Forest Research 19, 309–317.Google Scholar
  63. Riegel, G.M., Green, S.E., Harmon, M.E. and Franklin, J.F.: 1988, ‘Characteristics of mixed conifer forest reference stands at Sequoia National Park, California’. USDI National Park Service CPSU Technical Report No. 32. University of California, Davis, CA.Google Scholar
  64. Shampine, W.J.: 1993, ‘Quality assurance and quality control in monitoring programs’. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 26, 143–151.Google Scholar
  65. Spellerberg, I.F.: 1991, Monitoring ecological change. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. pp. 181–196.Google Scholar
  66. Stafford, S.G.: 1993, ‘Data, data everywhere but not a byte to read: managing monitoring information’. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 26, 125–141.Google Scholar
  67. Steele, J.H.: 1989, Discussion: scale and coupling in ecological systems, in: Roughgarden, J., May, R.M. and Levin, S.A. (eds.), Perspectives in Ecological Theory. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ, pp. 177–180.Google Scholar
  68. Stohlgren, T.J., Baron, J. and Kittel, T.: 1993, ‘Understanding coupled climatic, hydrological, and ecosystem responses to global climate change in the Colorado Rockies Biogeographical Area’, in: Brown, W.E. and Veirs, S.D., Jr. (eds.), Partners in Stewardship: Proceedings of the 7th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands. George Wright Society, Hancock, MI, pp. 184–200.Google Scholar
  69. Stohlgren, T.J.: 1994, ‘Planning long-term vegetation studies at landscape scales’, in: Powell, T.M. and Steele, J.H. (eds), Ecological Time Series. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY (in press).Google Scholar
  70. Stohlgren, T.J., Quinn, J.F., Ruggiero, M. and Waggoner, G.: 1995, ‘An assessment of biotic inventories in U.S. National Parks’, Biological Conservation (in press).Google Scholar
  71. Stout, B.B.: 1993.: ‘The good, the bad and the ugly of monitoring programs: defining questions and establishing objectives’. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 26, 91–98.Google Scholar
  72. Strayer, D., Glitzenstein, J.S., Jones, C.G., Kolasa, J., Lichens, G.E., McDonnell, M.J., Parker, G.G. and Pickett, S.T.A.: 1986, ‘Long-term ecological studies: an illustrated account of their design, operation, and importance to ecology’. Institute of Ecosystem Studies Occasional Publication Number 2. Millbrook, NY.Google Scholar
  73. ter Braak, C.J.F.: 1987, Unimodal models to relate species to environment. Wageningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  74. Taylor, L.R.: 1989, ‘Objective and experiment in long-term research’, in: Likens, G.E. (ed.), Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, pp. 20–71.Google Scholar
  75. Tilman, D.: 1989, ‘Ecological experiments: strengths and conceptual problems’, in: Likens, G.E. (ed.), Long-term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, pp. 136–157.Google Scholar
  76. Veblen, T.T., Hadley, K.S., Reid, M.S. and Rebertus, A.J.: 1991a, ‘Stand response to spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado subalpine forests’, Ecology 72, 213–231.Google Scholar
  77. Veblen, T.T., Hadley, K.S., Reid, M.S. and Rebertus, A.J.: 1991b, ‘Methods of detecting past spruce beetle outbreaks in Rocky Mountain subalpine forest’, Canadian Journal of Forest Research 21, 242–254.Google Scholar
  78. Wesser, S.D. and Arbruster, W.S.: 1991, ‘Species distribution controls across a forest-steppe transition: a causal model and experimental test’, Ecological Monographs 61, 323–342.Google Scholar
  79. Wilson, C.A. and Mitchell, J.F.B.: 1987, ‘A doubling CO2 climate sensitivity experiment with a global climate model including a simple ocean’, J. Geophysical Res. 92, 13,313–15,343.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Stohlgren
    • 1
  • Dan Binkley
    • 2
  • Thomas T. Veblen
    • 3
  • William L. Baker
    • 4
  1. 1.National Biological Service, Natural Resources Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFt. CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest SciencesColorado State UniversityFt. CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

Personalised recommendations