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Ecological Classification and Inventory

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Purpose, Evolution, and USE of Ecological Classification and Inventory Systems

The ecological classification and inventory (EC&I) system provides maps of ecological units at multiple scales, and ancillary interpretative information, useful in estimating ecosystem potentials and capabilities. Within Province 212, which encompasses the northern Lake States, an interagency team built upon work conducted by Albert (1995) to map terrestrial ecological units at three spatial scales. Sections and Subsections were mapped based on relationships between climate and gross physiography. Landtype Associations nested within these broader units were mapped based on relations of surficial geology, finer-scaled patterns in vegetation, and soil parent materials and drainage. Within landtype associations, landtypes and landtype phases have been classified and mapped in national forests based on landform characteristics (e.g., slope and position), soil textural and drainage classes (families and series), and potential natural vegetation (ecological species groups and habitat types).

Sections, subsections, and landtype associations efficiently predicted patterns in ecosystem components including surficial geology (e.g., wi-surfsub), lake densities (e.g., gla-lakesub), past and current vegetation (e.g., orvegsub, avhrrsub, wi-orveg-lta), and occurrence of wildfires larger than one-hundred acres (e.g., firege100). At each scale, these conditions and processes strongly influence ecosystem structure, composition, and function.

A central concept of the EC&I is the integration of biotic and abiotic factors at relevant spatial scales using a dual holistic (top-down) and reductionistic (bottom-up) approach (O'Neil et al. 1986). The nested spatial hierarchy not only facilitates understanding of the nature and distribution of complex ecological systems (Allen and Starr 1982), but also allows aggregation and disaggregation of data and information for multi-scaled analysis and reporting purposes.

Evolution: In 1992, the US Forest Service adopted an ecosystem-based approach to managing national forests and grasslands, a policy subsequently adopted by all federal agencies. This policy included a commitment to develop a National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units (Cleland et al. 1992; Unger 1993; Bailey et al. 1994; McNab and Avers 1994). In 1995, the agency also adopted a second, complementary system, entitled the Hierarchical Framework of Aquatic Ecological Units (Maxwell et al. 1995), using physical and biological criteria deemed important to aquatic ecosystems. Both frameworks called for the systematic classification and mapping of ecological units at scales ranging from global levels down to project levels (Cleland et al. 1997).

Early versions of the USFS terrestrial framework were largely based on the work of Bailey (1976, 1980), Driscoll (1984), and Wertz and Arnold (1972). Bailey emphasized climate as a controlling factor at all spatial scales, with landform modifying climatic influences as reflected by vegetation at finer spatial scales. Wertz and Arnold delineated larger scale (smaller area) ecological areas primarily on the basis of geomorphology and soils. Beginning in the mid-1980's, an integrated approach using biotic and abiotic factors began to take precedence (Jordan 1982; Cleland et al. 1985; McNab 1987; Smalley 1987; Host et al. 1987, 1988). This work built upon concepts and applications developed in Germany (Barnes et al. 1982; Barnes 1984), Canada (Hills 1952; Rowe 1980, 1984; Jones 1983), and the United States (Jordan 1982; Pregitzer and Barnes 1984; Spies and Barnes 1985), employing hierarchy theory (Allen and Starr 1982, O'Neil et al. 1986) and the ecosystem concept (Major 1969) in the classification, mapping, and interpretation of units.

The aquatic hierarchy is premised upon a belief that terrestrial units alone do not explain all patterns of aquatic biota, particularly speciation within geographically isolated populations (Hughes et al. 1987), or account for all boundaries that constrain flows of energy and material within aquatic ecosystems (Maxwell et al. 1995). And while watersheds in some regions of the country are distinct geographic units bounded by drainage divides, these divides do not account for changes in climate, elevation, slope, aspect, geologically controlled soil parent materials, or other key conditions affecting ecosystems that are addressed by the terrestrial hierarchy of ecological units. Both frameworks recognize the need to identify linkages and analyze interrelated terrestrial and watershed patterns and processes. As stated by Maxwell et al. (1995) "By understanding these linkages, we can analyze attributes of aquatic systems together with the climate, geology, and landform attributes of the land units within which they are nested." A specific example noted that "infiltration and evapotranspiration, runoff and erosion, and surface and subsurface flow systems are influenced by the properties of land units." Thus both hierarchical frameworks are needed to comprehensively address terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Use: The terrestrial and aquatic frameworks jointly classify the stable (biophysical) components of what could be considered an infinite variety of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems into a limited number of discrete units that, at any given scale, are mappable and distinguished from one another by differences in various structural or functional characteristics, and biological and physical potentials. Separate information themes are developed for factors considered more transient, such as current vegetative or wildlife and fish distributions, road densities, insect infestations, and land use. When used in conjunction with information on these more transient factors, as well as information on ecological processes such as natural disturbance regimes or human development, these National Hierarchical Frameworks provide a means of addressing spatial and temporal variations that affect the structure, function, and management potentials of ecosystems. When combined, this information provides the tools and understanding needed for meeting the overriding goals of the Forest Service: to maintain and restore ecological sustainability and watershed health.

Programmatic uses of the National Hierarchical Frameworks include (i) national assessment and reporting under the Resource Planning Act and Government Performance and Results Act, (ii) multiforest (bioregional) analysis and assessment, (iii) forest-level analysis and planning under the National Forest Management Act (Jensen et al. 1991), and (iv) landscape or watershed down to project-level determination of land-use and watershed capability, desired future forest conditions, natural disturbance regimes, and biodiversity evaluations. Sections and subsections, for example, were mapped at 1:250,000 and published at 1:1,000,000 for the eastern United States (Keys et al. 1995) for regional assessments and analyses.

References

Albert, Dennis A. 1995. Regional landscape ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin: a working map and classification. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-178. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 250 pp.

Allen, T.F.H. and T.B. Starr. 1982. Hierarchy: perspectives for ecological complexity. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 310 pp.

Bailey, R.G. 1976. Ecoregions of the United States. Map (scale 1:7,500,000). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Region. Ogden, UT.

Bailey, R.G. 1980. Descriptions of the ecoregions of the United States. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USFS. Miscellaneous Publication 1391. 77 pp.

Bailey, R.G., P.E. Avers, T. King, and W.H. McNab (editors), 1994. Ecoregions and subregions of the United States. Map (scale 1:7,500,000). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Barnes, B.V., K.S. Pregitzer; T.A. Spies, and V.H. Spooner. 1982. Ecological forest site classification. Journal of Forestry 80:493-98.

Barnes, B.V. 1984. Forest ecosystem classification and mapping in Baden-Wurttemberg, West Germany. In: Forest land classification: experience, problems, perspectives. Proceedings of the symposium; 1984 March 18-20, pp. 49-65. Madison, WI.

Cleland, D.T., J.B. Hart, K.S. Pregitzer, C.W. and Ramm. 1985. Classifying oak ecosystems for management. In: Proceedings of Challenges for Oak Management and Utilization, March 28-29, ed. J.E. Johnson, pp. 120-34. University of Wisconsin, Madison,WI.

Cleland, D.T., T.R. Crow, P.E. Avers, and J.R. Probst. 1992. Principles of land stratification for delineating ecosystems. In: Proceedings of Taking an Ecological Approach to Management National Workshop. 1992 April 27-30. Salt Lake City, UT: 10 p.

Cleland, D.T., P.E. Avers, W.H. McNab, M.E. Jensen, R.G. Bailey, T. King, and W.E. Russell. 1997. National hierarchical framework of ecological units. In: Ecosystem Management: Applications for sustainable forest and wildlife resources, ed. M.S. Boyce and A. Haney, pp. 181-200. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Driscoll, R.S., et. al. 1984. An ecological land classification framework for the United States. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USFS. Miscellaneous Publication 1439. 56 pp.

Hills, G.A. 1952. The classification and evaluation of site for forestry. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. Resource Division Report 24.

Host, G.E., K.S. Pregitzer, C.W. Ramm, D.T. Lusch, and D.T. Cleland 1988. Variations in overstory biomass among glacial landforms and ecological land units in northwestern Lower Michigan. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 18:659-68.

Host, G.E., K.S. Pregitzer, C.W. Ramm, J.B. Hart, and D.T. Cleland. 1987. Landform mediated differences in successional pathways among upland forest ecosystems in northwestern Lower Michigan. Forest Science 33:445-57.

Jensen, M.C., C. McMicoll, and M. Prather. 1991. Application of ecological classification to environmnental effects analysis. Journal of Environmenal Quality 20:24-30.

Hughes, R.M., E. Rexstad, and C.E. Bond. 1987. The relationship of aquatic ecoregions, river basins, and physiographic provinces to the ichthyogeographic regions of Oregon. Copeia 2: 423-32.

Jones, R.K. et al. 1983. Field guide to forest ecosystem classification for the clay belt, site region 3e. Ontario, Canada: Ministry of Natural Resources. 123 pp.

Jordan, J.K. 1982. Application of an integrated land classification. In: Proceedings, Artificial Regeneration of Conifers in the Upper Lakes Region. 1982 October 26-28, pp.65-82. Green Bay, WI.

Keys, J.E. Jr., C.A. Carpenter, S.L. Hooks, F.G. Koeneg, W.H. McNab, W.E. Russell, and M.L. Smith. 1995. Ecological units of the eastern United States--first approximation. Technical Publication R8-TP 21. Map (scale 1:3,500,000). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Major, J. 1969. Historical development of the ecosystem concept. In: The Ecosystem Concept in Natural Resource Management, ed. G.M. Van Dyne, pp. 9-22. New York: Academic Press.

Maxwell, J.R., C.J. Edwards, M.E. Jensen, S.J. Paustian, H. Parrott, and D.M. Hill. 1995. A Hierarchical Framework of Aquatic Ecological Units in North America (Neararctic Zone). General Technical Report NC-176. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 72 pp.

McNab, W. H. and P. E. Avers. 1994. Ecological Subregions of the United States: Section Descriptions. Administrative Publication WO-WSA-5. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 267 pp.

McNab, W.H. 1987. Rationale for a multifactor forest site classification system for the southern Appalachians. In: Proceedings of 6th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. Feb 24-26, pp. 283-94. Knoxville, TN.

O'Neill, R.V., D.L. DeAngelis, J.B. Waide, J.B., T.F.H. Allen. 1986. A hierarchical concept of ecosystems. Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press.

Pregitzer, K.S. and B.V. Barnes. 1984. Classification and comparison of upland hardwood and conifer ecosystems of the Cyrus H. McCormick Experimental Forest, upper Michigan. Can. J. For. Res. 14:362-375.

Rowe, J.S. 1980. The common denominator in land classification in Canada: an ecological approach to mapping. Forest Chronicle 56:19-20.

Rowe, J.S. 1984. Forest Land Classification: limitations of the use of vegetation. Proceedings of the symposium on forest land classification. 1984 March 18-20, pp. 132-47. Madison, WI:.

Smalley, G.W. 1986. Site classification and evaluation for the Interior Uplands. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Tech. Pub. R8-TP9. Southern Region.

Spies, T.A. and B.V. Barnes. 1985. A multifactor ecological classification of the northern hardwood and conifer ecosystems of Sylvania Recreation Area, Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 15:949-60.

Wertz, W.A. and J.A. Arnold. 1972. Land Systems Inventory. Ogden, UT: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Region. 12 p.

Unger, D.G. 1993. Memo to Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director, and Washington Office staff. Subject: National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units, November 5, file designation 1330/2060. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington Office.

 

Analysis Team:

USDA Forest Service--Southern Research Station, Rhinelander, WI
dot.gif (71 bytes)David T. Cleland, Landscape Ecologist

USDA Forest Service--North Central Research Station, Houghton, MI
dot.gif (71 bytes)Maureen Mislivets, Landscape Ecologist

Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI
dot.gif (71 bytes)Sari Saunders, Landscape Ecologist

Natural Resources Research Institute, Duluth, MN
dot.gif (71 bytes)George Host, Ecologist

North Central Research Station
dot.gif (71 bytes)Jim Jordan, Forest Ecologist

USDA Forest Service, Chippewa National Forest, Cass Lake, MI
dot.gif (71 bytes)Dave Shadis, Ecologist

USDA Forest Service--Huron-Manistee National Forest, Cadillac, MI
dot.gif (71 bytes)Alix Cleveland

GIS Data

dot.gif (71 bytes)Ecological Subregions: Provinces, Sections, and Subsections of the Conterminous United States

Available GIS Maps

dot.gif (71 bytes) Aquatic Zoogeography of North America

Section/Subsection

dot.gif (71 bytes) Ecoregion Boundaries in the Great Lakes Assessment Area
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Current Vegetation from AVHRR Classified Satellite Imagery
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with lakes
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with rivers and streams
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with fires larger than or equal to 100 acres
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Michigan surficial geology
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Minnesota surficial geology
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Wisconsin surficial geology
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Section and Subsection Boundaries with Province 212 original vegetation

Landtype Associations

dot.gif (71 bytes) Land Type Associations for the Province 212 portion of Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Land Type Associations for the Province 212 portion of Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Landtype Associations of the Chippewa National Forest
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Current Vegetation from AVHRR Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Early Settlement Vegetation in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Lakes in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Rivers and Streams in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Surficial Geology in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Current Vegetation from AVHRR Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Lakes in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Early Settlement Vegetation in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Rivers and Streams in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes) Overlay of Land Type Associations with Surficial Geology in Northern Wisconsin

Reports

dot.gif (71 bytes)National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units, David T. Cleland, Peter E. Avers, W. Henry McNab, Mark E. Jensen, Robert G. Bailey, Thomas King, and Walter E. Russell
dot.gif (71 bytes)A Spatial Analysis of the Great Lakes Ecoregions, George E. Host, Mark A. White, and Philip L. Polzer


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