The University of Arizona

Dry-weight-rank method assessment in heterogenous communities.

S.L. Dowhower, W.R. Teague, R.J. Ansley, W.E. Pinchak


Assessment of herbaceous standing crop in heterogeneous range plant communities requires large numbers of samples to account for inherent variability. The dry-weight-rank method (DWR) was developed to eliminate the need for clipping and sorting of herbage to determine relative proportions on a dry weight basis. The technique was assessed for applicability and accuracy in the mixed prairie of the Texas Rolling Plains. Much of the herbage within the communities investigated occurred in monospecific patches that resulted in only 15% of quadrats having 3 species ranked for which DWR was designed. Non-harvest methods of determining grass proportion by species were compared to harvested proportions in mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) and redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) communities. Estimation methods evaluated were 1) harvest by species, 2) weight estimation by species, 3) DWR with quadrat weighting, 4) unweighted estimated proportion by species, and 5) unweighted DWR. Correlations of non-harvest to harvest proportions were improved with quadrat weighting. Weighting improved values more in the juniper than in the mesquite communities. Although cumulative ranking of DWR multipliers was necessary in 85% of sample quadrats, there was a high correlation (r2>0.995) between weight estimation and weighted DWR and between estimated proportion and unweighted DWR. This indicates that cumulative ranking with the original DWR multipliers was virtually the same as evaluator estimation. Analysis of variance indicated significant differences in non-harvest methods compared to harvesting. Quadrat weighting with DWR was necessary to draw the same statistical conclusions between means that harvest data provided. Ranks are easier to apply and more likely to be applied similarly by individual evaluators than estimated proportions. For sites with high standing crop variation and patchiness of species that require considerable use of cumulative ranking, DWR with quadrat weighting provides adequate determination of species proportions of biomass.



mixed prairie;ranking;rapid methods;Juniperus pinchotii;Prosopis glandulosa;stand characteristics;estimation;sampling;Texas;prairies;biomass;botanical composition;dry matter

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