Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs): An Introduction to a Tool for Restoration
Course Leaders: Kendra Moseley Urbanik and Stacey L. Clark, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Venue: The Pyle Center
To address conservation and ecological restoration needs, NRCS has been developing a universally applicable management technology based on climatic, geomorphic, and edaphic features of the landscape. This tool, called “Ecological Site Descriptions” (ESDs), depicts the ecological dynamics of the site by detailing interactions between soils, vegetation, and related resources. ESDs also predict the effects of management and disturbance on the ecological functions and processes of the site through the use of a detailed state-and-transition model (STM). This publicly accessible NRCS tool can be used on all land types, providing a standardized framework for conservation and restoration across the landscape and across political boundaries. Ecological site descriptions provide a general ecological foundation for all types of land management, but are of particular use to ecological restoration. Ecological sites integrate a variety of information including inventory data that link plant communities to soil profiles and landscape position, historical reconstructions, and management considerations based on local knowledge and assessment and monitoring data (Moseley et. al. 2010). This session will introduce the history and basic concepts of ecological sites, the development process of ESDs, and the concepts and components of STMs. This session will also discuss restoration concepts that are built into the foundation of ecological sites, the specific application of ESDs for restoration planning, the relationship of ecological sites to NRCS’s soils maps, and information on how ESDs can be accessed by the public. Some specific examples of ways ESDs are being used to inform restoration work within the US and internationally will be presented.