Appropriate and timely rangeland management strategies require effective monitoring systems that are capable of identifying and quantifying shifting levels of resilience and degradation. Unfortunately, trend assessments tend to be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Traditional field sampling techniques rely on individuals using visual estimates – a highly subjective process over limited areas that may even damage fragile environments.
ICARDA’s approach to monitoring rangelands prioritizes the use of new technologies – a more efficient, cost-effective, and less destructive alternative than traditional methods. The use of digital photography speeds-up the collection, processing, and storage of key indicators, and global positioning technologies ensure that recorded measurements are precise. Digital photographs can also be applied over wider areas - thus providing policymakers with a more complete picture of ecosystem dynamics – and are able to capture increasingly detailed and accurate information.
This strict monitoring regime provides a model for planners to accurately measure trends over time. When local measurements are combined with landscape-scale remote sensing such as satellite or high-altitude photography, a complete picture of vegetation dynamics and system changes emerges, thereby informing the development of appropriate mitigation strategies.
ICARDA is also pioneering a tracking system to better understand the behavior of free-roaming livestock – helping to identify areas where rehabilitation efforts need to be targeted. This system, which attaches tracking devices to collars that transmit data to storage devices, is more effective than researchers recording movements in the field whose presence may disrupt normal animal behaviors.