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Ecological site descriptions

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Ecological sites are the basic component of a land-type classification system that describes ecological potential and ecosystem dynamics of land areas. All land/land use types are identified within the ecological site system, including rangeland, pasture, and forest land.

An ecological site is defined as a distinctive kind of land with specific soil and physical characteristics that differ from other kinds of land in its ability to produce a distinctive kind and amount of vegetation and its ability to respond similarly to management actions and natural disturbances. Lands are classified considering discrete physical and biotic factors. Physical factors include soils, climate, hydrology, geology, and physiographic features. Biotic factors include plant species occurrence, plant community compositions, annual biomass production, wildlife-vegetation interactions, and other factors. Ecological dynamics, primarily disturbance regimes such as grazing, fire, drought, management actions and all resulting interactions, are also a primary factor in the development of ecological sites.

Information and data pertaining to a particular ecological site are organized into a reference document known as an Ecological Site Description (ESD). ESDs function as a primary repository of ecological knowledge regarding an ecological site.


Region Contact Phone E-mail
Alaska Jamin Johanson 907-982-5827
North Central Chris Tecklenburg 785-201-5099
Northeast Nels Barrett 860-871-4015
Northwest Kirt Walstad 406-587-6861
South Central Bryan Christensen 254-742-9871
Southeast Charles Stemmans 337-948-8288, ext. 2217
Southwest Kendra Moseley 530-792-5697

Next steps

  1. 1

    Select a Major Land Resource Area

    To learn more about a particular ecological site, first select a Major Land Resource Area using the list, map, photos, briefcase, or quick search option located on this page.
  2. 2

    Select an ecological site

    Next, select an ecological site associated with the Major Land Resource Area of interest. Keys, descriptions, and images are available to help determine an appropriate ecological site.
  3. 3

    Explore the ecological site description

    Finally, learn more about the selected ecological site and its characteristic dynamics by browsing the ecological site description and exploring alternative state and transition model formats.