COLLEGE STATION – Dr. David Briske, professor in the Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management department, is a recipient of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award, presented recently by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The award was presented to the “Interagency Ecological Site Implementation Team,” consisting of 19 researchers from agencies across the nation, in recognition of the development of an “Ecological Site Description’ protocol that supports assessment and management of national rangelands.
The award was presented to the ecological team at the 65th Secretary’s Honor Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C. It is the highest honor awarded by the Secretary of Agriculture which recognizes outstanding contributions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Briske said much of the team’s work took place from 2004-2008 and culminated in the interagency site manual in 2010, which created a protocol adopted by all major land management agencies in the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
“This was the first time these major land management agencies have adopted the same land management procedures on U.S. rangelands,” he said. “These uniform, new rangeland management procedures replaced an outdated system that was developed in the 1940s.
“We put ecological resilience into a practical land management approach. What that does is give land managers a set of guidelines and ecological indicators to anticipate and manage the changing ecological condition of their land,” Briske said. “The earlier procedure was a much more static approach looking at the plant species present and comparing them to a single, desirable reference.”
Briske’s contribution, through his Texas A&M AgriLife Research appointment to the team, involved the incorporation of ecological resilience theory into state-and-transition models that represent a central feature of Ecological Site Descriptions. This work produced a practical method of linking ecological theory with land management by identifying ecological processes and indicators to estimate resilience.
Briske said he and his colleagues have continued to refine state-and-transition models by comparing existing models with available records of long-term vegetation change throughout the western U.S. The overall goal of this work is to support sustainable land use by effectively linking science and management.