Jeremy Schallner at New Mexico State University uses LandPKS for vegetation monitoring for research and extension. “We found LandPKS to be a very effective tool to communicate with private land-owners about looking at the landscape through this lens of land potential,” he says. The app provides a very simple way to collect vegetation cover data, and the automatic graphing on the phone makes it easy to interpret current cover, as well as changes over time.

The vegetation cover and composition data collected is compatible with the Bureau of Land Management’s Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring Strategy (BLM-AIM) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Resources Inventory (NRCS-NRI). As always with LandPKS, you can choose to keep your data private or share it with others through the LandPKS Data Portal.

Who is the Vegetation Module for?

The vegetation module is most useful to land managers, government and agency staff, Non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, researchers, and others who monitor vegetation.

What does the Vegetation Module do?

The module allows for rapid vegetation data collection and monitoring (composition, cover, height, basal/canopy gaps, and species density). Additional vegetation attributes, such as utilization and production, will be added in the future.

The user collects data about the vegetation and other cover on their land for a given date. Tracking this data over time (monitoring) allows the user to evaluate the effectiveness of their current management and adjust their management plan if it is not achieving management objectives. The data can be utilized to detect early signs of land degradation and compare areas being managed differently to evaluate their effects.

Examples of vegetation reports in the LandPKS mobile app. View calculated and graphed indicators of land health.

Examples of vegetation reports in the LandPKS mobile app. View calculated and graphed indicators of land health.

Video

Click here to watch the Vegetation & LandCover video training.

Download

Download a PDF of the Intro to the LandPKS Vegetation Module.

Further reading:

Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems: Volume I

Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems: Volume II

BLM Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) Protocol

USDA-NRCS National Resources Inventory

What is the LandInfo Module for?

The LandPKS LandInfo module is designed for rapid soil characterization and identification. In LandInfo, users can access soil and ecological site information based on both location and user inputs. The LandInfo Module is useful to anyone who is interested in characterizing and identifying their soils. The module can be used for land management as well as in educational contexts.

Using the LandInfo module, users can identify their site’s soil type (SoilID) and determine  its Land Capability Class (LCC), essential information for sustainable land-use planning and management. To learn more about Soil Identification and Land Capability Classification, take a look at the SoilID and LCC articles.

You can also watch our video tutorial about how to use the LandInfo module.

Features of the LandInfo Module

In the app’s Data Input tab, the LandInfo module considers five defining aspects of soil: Land Use, Land Slope, Soil Texture, Soil Limitations, and Soil Color.

  • Land Use asks the user two questions: 1) What is the Land Cover on the site?, and 2) Is the site grazed? Under Land Cover, the user can select from 9 simple illustrations of possible land covers, from forest to village to water. Under Grazing, the user can select from 8 illustrations, ranging from not grazed, grazed by livestock, and grazed by wildlife.
  • Land Slope is about the angle of the land and the way it directs water. Under Slope, the user can select from 7 illustrated slopes or use the slope meter. Under Slope Shape, a series of 6 illustrations depict the shape of the slope both in the down-slope direction (left column of illustrations) and the across-slope direction (right column of illustrations). The user can select one illustration from each column. For example, the slope might be linear in the down-slope direction but concave in the accross slope direction, resulting in a linear/concave slope shape.
  • Under Soil Texture, users can begin to define what kind of soil they have at their sites, layer by layer. Is the surface texture a sand, silt, loam, or clay? Does it have rock fragments? By analyzing soil properties by depth, the LandInfo module predicts soil infiltration and plant available water-holding capacity (AWC). AWC estimates can be adjusted to account for variable levels of soil organic matter (SOM). The LandPKS Texture Guide provides easy, step-by-step instructions for soil texture identification. Users may also enter Rock Fragment Volume data and the Bedrock Depth in this tab.
  • Soil Limitations such as deep, vertical cracks in dry soil, salt found on the surface, high flooding risk, low PH, surface stoniness, water table depth and soil depth have major implications for land use. In most instances, these limitations can limit root growth and crop production; when not taken into account, they can lead to long-term degradation of the land.
  • Finally, the LandInfo module in the LandPKS mobile app contains the Soil Color tool. With this tool, users can define soil color using a phone’s camera and a standardized reference card. For more information about soil color and using the LandPKS soil color tool, refer to our article about soil color.

The LandInfo Module has been designed to accommodate users with different levels of experience, from the backyard gardener to the natural resource professional. By utilizing the video and text tutorials, the texture guide, and the ‘help’ text accessible by clicking on the question mark icons, users of all skill levels will be able to characterize their soil and gain a better understanding of its potential.

Video

Watch the LandInfo video training

Download

Download a PDF of Intro to the LandPKS LandInfo Module

Further reading:

“Taking the Guesswork out of Soil Identification”

Soil Taxonomy: A Basic System of Soil Classification for Making and Interpreting Soil Surveys by the Soil Survey Staff at USDA-NRCS (PDF download): Soil Taxonomy | NRCS Soils

Educational (K-12) resources about soils from the USDA-NRCS: Soil Education | NRCS Soils

More information about soil limitations from the USDA-NRCS (PDF download): Understanding Soil Risks and Hazards | NRCS Soils

Abstract

Better matching of land use with its sustainable potential is a “no-regrets” strategy for sustainably increasing agricultural production on existing land, targeting restoration efforts to where they are likely to be most successful, and guiding biodiversity conservation initiatives. Land potential is defined as the inherent, long-term potential of the land to sustainably generate ecosystem services.

This report provides an introduction to land potential evaluation systems, strategies and tools necessary to implement this strategy. It provides information that both private landowners and policymakers can use to increase long-term productivity and profitability, while at the same time addressing global objectives defined through land-related Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly 15.3 (land degradation neutrality). The focus of the report is on the inherent long-term (decades) potential of the land to sustainably generate ecosystem services, based on soils, topography and climate. In general, land that can sustainably support higher levels of vegetation production, including crop, forage and tree, has higher potential.

Short-term land potential (1-5 years) depends on a combination of long-term potential, weather, and the current condition of the land (e.g. fertility, compaction, current vegetation cover). Matching land use with its potential determines whether the inherent long-term potential is sustainably realized. Sustainability depends on (1) potential degradation resistance, and (2) potential resilience, which is the capacity to recover from degradation. Land with similar potential should therefore respond similarly to management. Policymakers have a tremendous number of opportunities to leverage land evaluations to both increase returns on investments, while minimizing risks of catastrophic failures, such as Britain’s post-world war II peanut scheme in Tanzania, and the United States Dust Bowl, which resulted from an ill-informed agricultural expansion in the early part of the 20th century.

Policy options for applying land evaluation include, but are not limited to:

  1. setting realistic, practical targets for land degradation neutrality,
  2. general land use planning to decide which lands should be reserved for agricultural production and
    biodiversity conservation,
  3. agricultural land use planning to sustainably increase food security and the profitability of the
    farming sector,
  4. land reform and redistribution to ensure that (a) objectives for equitability are met and (b) tract sizes
    meet requirements for minimum economic production units, and (c) providing new landowners with
    appropriate information on the best available management practices specific to their land,
  5. designing incentive and other programs to minimize degradation risk, and
  6. optimizing climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives by effectively targeting resources to
    where the greatest returns on investments are likely to occur. The report provides an overview of
    existing land evaluation systems, options for making them more useful by integrating resilience, and
    for applying land evaluation to policy.

Download the full report.

Citation

Herrick, J.E., O. Arnalds, B. Bestelmeyer, S. Bringezu, G. Han, M.V. Johnson, D. Kimiti, Yihe Lu, L. Montanarella, W. Pengue, G. Toth, J. Tukahirwa, M. Velayutham, L. Zhang. (2016). Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools. A Report of the Working Group on Land and Soils of the International Resource Panel. Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools. A Report of the Working Group on Land and Soils of the International Resource Panel. UNEP.

Download the guide.