Fact Sheet No. 24:
Natural Resource Management Projects Photo Points
Taking photographs is one of the most basic monitoring techniques. While photographs cannot tell the entire story about a situation, project, or practice, much information can be gathered from photographs taken at the same point over a number of years.
Photographs often reveal changes that measurements miss. Photos are an easy way to help others become aware of differences induced by climate and the benefits of good land management practices. They serve as a reminder of how far you have come in establishing a healthy-functioning, natural resource area.
There are many monitoring techniques available, but if you consider these following questions when selecting a monitoring approach, photo points fit most ranch needs.
- Can the method or methods detect changes towards or away from defined management goals?
- Are you willing to use the methods consistently for several years?
- Are the methods adaptable to changing goals?
- Will the methods answer your questions, and/or will they help you answer questions from others?
However, before you start taking pictures, think of why, what, and how you might set up a photo monitoring program.
- Are you trying to describe or document current conditions?
- Are you identifying existing or potential problem locations?
- Are you documenting the application of management practices?
- Are you measuring the results of management practices?
- Are you measuring the success of meeting your ranch management goals or objectives?
What to Monitor
- The general appearance of the ranch.
- Specific sections (reaches) of a stream for riparian vegetation and streambank stability.
- Lakes, ponds, and seeps for vegetation and heavy use.
- Areas of light, moderate, and heavy grazing pressure within fields or pastures.
- Roads and trails.
- Stream crossings, water gaps, etc.
How to Monitor
- Photo plots
- Landscape views
- Riparian views
- Vegetative cover views
- Descriptive records
The following table suggests photo situations for documenting effectiveness of various management practices on rangelands.
Monitoring Common Practices for Effectiveness
(water, quality, & quantity)
Monitor by Taking
(before, during, after)
|Brush control in uplands||...reducing transpiration, allowing grasses to increase so they can impede and filter overland flow, and increase their root density to hold soil||...sites where brush has been killed or removed|
|Manage grazing of domestic livestock through new rotation patterns, fences, or water developments||...increasing grass cover and vigor in uplands to intercept rainfall, impede and filter overland flow, and reduce erosion and siltation. Reducing compaction in riparian areas so as to reduce bank failures, erosion, and stream siltation||...representative areas in uplands and of streambank profiles in riparian areas|
|Install gradient stabilizing drop structures to partially block stream flow and form pool||...reducing stream velocity, trapping sediment, reducing streambank erosion and channel cutting, and promoting streambank revegetation||...profiles of representative streambanks. Measure the depth of silt behind the structures|
|Herbaceous plantings in uplands||...increasing grass cover to intercept precipitation, impede runoff, reduce erosion, increase infiltration, and filter overland flow||...representative landscapes|
|Planting vegetation in riparian areas||...anchoring riparian soil, reducing streambank failure, erosion, and channel cutting; promoting revegetation of streambanks and restoring channel profile; trapping debris, filtering the stream, providing shade, and reducing stream temperature||...representative streambank profiles (with the horizon at the edge of the photo)|
|Install riprap to form barriers along streambanks||...impeding stream flow and velocity along the banks; reducing erosion, channel cutting, and bank failure; reducing siltation, promoting revegetation of streambanks to further trap sediment; reducing compaction and trampling by livestock in riparian areas||...cross-sections of streambanks, focusing on locations of typical installations|
|Install head-cut control devices||...stopping channel cutting, promoting channel healing, helping restore channel profile, and promoting water storage in riparian areas||...treatment areas, providing an oblique view of problem sites|
|Examples of fenceline photo points
||Examples of stream and streambank photo points
|Example of landscape photo point
||Example of vegetative cover photo point