The University of Arizona

The Role of Data and Inference in the Development and Application of Ecological Site Concepts and State-and-Transition Models

Jason W. Karl, Curtis J. Talbot


• Information embodied in ecological site descriptions and their state-and-transition models is crucial to effective land management, and as such is needed now.
• There is not time (or money) to employ a traditional research-based approach (i.e., inductive/deductive, hypothesis driven inference) to address the unknowns in developing and documenting ecological site concepts.
• We propose that the development of ecological site products is a dynamic task of defining concepts and processes that best explain the available data (i.e., abductive reasoning), and as such a more iterative approach to their development is needed than is currently used.
• Under the proposed approach, ecological site concepts are never viewed as final but only the best representation that is supported by available knowledge and data.
• The natural result of this way of thinking is that products like ecological site descriptions and state-and-transition models should continually be tested and improved as new data become available.

Keywords: ecological site, state-and-transitionmodel, inference, scientific method, rangeland management, monitoring.

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