Rangeland Monitoring Using Remote Sensing and GIS: A Case Study of Scale and Resolution in Measuring Plant Community Structure

Society for Range Management ConferenceSociety for Range Management Conference, Spokane, WA, 28 January to 03 February 2012

Ammon Boswell, Steven Petersen, Ryan Jensen, Danny Summers, and Jason Vernon

“Long-term rangeland monitoring is essential for land managers to make informed and effective decisions. However, most management agencies are responsible for extensive areas, making effective monitoring both time consuming and expensive. Therefore, methods are needed for rangeland monitoring that are rapid, cost effective, accurate and robust. Remote sensing and GIS are tools that have been suggested to provide similar results of plant and bare ground cover as ground-based reference data with an acceptable amount of error. The purpose of this study is to compare plant community data obtained from four different remote sensing platforms with ground reference data collected from field plots in northern Utah. Remote Sensing platforms include Landsat (30m), NAIP (1m), High Resolution remote sensed imagery (0.26m), and very high resolution remote sensed imagery (0.06cm), Total percent cover were determined for trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and percent bare ground from each data source. Preliminary results indicate that total tree and shrub cover are discernable from high resolution imagery. Herbaceous plants and percent bare ground were more difficult to discern in comparison to ground-based reference data. This may be due to differences in vegetation sampling techniques. Using remote sensing, managers can monitor broader landscapes at more frequent intervals making it possible to effectively monitor plant community change, the invasion of weedy species, and the effects of disturbance on ecological structure.”