Soils are commonly overlooked as important indicators of ecosystem health. However, soils have profound influences on both natural and cultural resources, and those occurring within the Southern Plains Network Parks (SOPN) are no exception. Therefore, knowing the status and trends of soil conditions within the SOPN is critical for maintaining the integrity of the parks. Monitoring the soil structure and chemistry vital sign will help managers make informed decisions on preventing erosion, blocking the invasion of native and non-native plant species, averting the degradation of the soil biota, and avoiding the inhibition of important ecological services that soils provide (e.g., nutrient cycling).
There are three monitoring objectives for this vital sign. The first is determining trends in annual soil respiration measurements. The second is, detecting changes in ecosystem carbon balance. The third is determinining status and annual trends in soil cover, aggregate stability, compaction, and erosion. Potenial measures include soil nutrient (C, N, P) levels, soil classification, rates of erosion, percent cover of bare soil. SOPN’s soil structure and chemistry monitoring protocol will largely be based on soil sampling and assessment methods previously developed by other agencies (e.g., National Resource Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management US Geological Survey and US Forest Service), but will be adapted to suit the needs of soils in our network. Monitoring soil structure and chemistry will allow SOPN park managers to evaluate the health of their park soils.
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Soil structure and chemistry monitoring is done at all parks within the Southern Plains Network.