Riparian-wetland areas are some of the most productive resources found on public and private lands. They are highly prized for their recreation, fish and wildlife, water supply, cultural, and historic values, as well as for their economic values, which stem from their use for livestock production, timber harvest, and mineral extraction.
Proper functioning condition (PFC) is a qualitative method for assessing the condition of riparian-wetland areas. The term PFC is used to describe both the assessment process, and a defined, on-the-ground condition of a riparian-wetland area.
The PFC assessment refers to a consistent approach for considering hydrology, vegetation, and erosion/deposition (soils) attributes and processes to assess the condition of riparian-wetland areas. A checklist is used for the PFC assessment (Adobe PDF 153k) which synthesizes information that is foundational to determining the overall health of a riparian-wetland system. The on-the-ground condition termed PFC refers to how well the physical processes are functioning. PFC is a state of resiliency that will allow a riparian-wetland area to hold together during high-flow events with a high degree of reliability. This resiliency allows an area to then produce desired values, such as fish habitat, neotropical bird habitat, or forage, over time. Riparian-wetland areas that are not functioning properly cannot sustain these values.
PFC is a qualitative assessment based on quantitative science. The PFC assessment is intended to be performed by an interdisciplinary (ID) team with local, on-the-ground experience in the kind of quantitative sampling techniques that support the PFC checklist. These quantitative techniques are encouraged in conjunction with the PFC assessment for individual calibration, where answers are uncertain, or where experience is limited. PFC is also an appropriate starting point for determining and prioritizing the type and location of quantitative inventory or monitoring necessary. The PFC assessment has also proven to be an excellent communication tool for bringing a wide diversity of publics to agreement. This process forms a "common vocabulary" for identifying the building blocks for the development of desired condition and resulting values. Again, the method developed for assessing PFC is qualitative and is based on using a checklist to make a relatively quick determination of condition.
Upland Rangeland Health:
Qualitative assessments of rangeland health provide land managers and technical assistance specialists with a good communication tool for use with the public. Many of these tools have been used successfully for this purpose over the past 100 years. This technique, in association with quantitative monitoring and inventory information, can be used to provide early warnings of resource problems on upland rangelands. Rangelands are defined as "land on which the indigenous vegetation (climax or natural potential) is predominantly grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, or shrubs and is managed as a natural ecosystem. If plants are introduced, they are managed similarly.
The approach described in this technical reference is designed to:
- Be used only by knowledgeable, experienced people.
- Provide a preliminary evaluation of soil/site stability, hydrologic function, and integrity of the biotic community (at the ecological site level).
- Help land managers identify areas that are potentially at risk of degradation.
- Provide early warnings of potential problems and opportunities.
- Be used to communicate fundamental ecological concepts to a wide variety of audiences in the field.
- Improve communication among interest groups by focusing discussion on critical ecosystem properties and processes.
- Select monitoring sites in the development of monitoring programs.
- Help understand and communicate rangeland health issues.
The approach is NOT to be used to:
- Identify the cause(s) of resource problems.
- Make grazing and other management decisions.
- Monitor land or determine trend.
- Independently generate national or regional assessments of rangeland health.
This procedure has been developed for use by experienced, knowledgeable land managers. It is not intended that this assessment procedure be used by individuals who do not have experience or knowledge of the rangeland ecological sites they are evaluating. This approach requires a good understanding of ecological processes, vegetation, and soils for each of the sites to which it is applied. Furthermore, as comprehensive ecological site descriptions (which are used for reference) are not available for most sites, the user is frequently required to generate reference information based on their knowledge of the range of spatial and temporal variability apparent in a particular ecological site. This will frequently require two or more individuals (e.g., ecologist and soil scientist) to work together to make the evaluation