story to find out more.
Computer software processes digital images of
rangeland to show the green vegetation (top) as white (bottom), enabling
scientists to quickly assess erosion risk by measuring ground cover.Click
the image for more information about it.
Innovations in Rangeland Monitoring
By Rosalie Marion
February 10, 2006
Four complementary software
programs that provide cost-effective new methods for monitoring vast tracts of
U.S. rangelands have been developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists and
a collaborator. The custom computer applications are geared to aid land
managers in collecting and analyzing rangeland-monitoring data.
Project coordinator and rangeland scientist
Booth, with the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based ARS
Resources Research Unit, received funding from the
U.S. Department of the Interior's
Bureau of Land Management. Booth
collaborated with ARS biological science technician
Cox and Colorado-based independent programming consultant Robert D.
Berryman to create the programs.
Light-weight, slow-flying airplanes equipped with a high-resolution digital
still camera, a Global Positioning System and computers are used to collect
thousands of data images.
The images are then used to measure the risk of soil erosion by quantifying
and comparing levels of ground cover over time. Conventional methods, which are
time-consuming, require ground crews to collect measurements on foot, using
Two of the new software applications, LaserLOG and Merge, are bundled with a
database, ImageMeasurement, as an interrelated package. The applications
provide accurate image-resolution calculations and adjust for factors that
affect object-to-camera distance.
The stand-alone application, SamplePoint, allows technicians to measure bare
ground and ground cover, such as vegetation, litter and rock. Each data image
contains millions of tiny picture elements, or pixels. SamplePoint helps the
user visually classify ground cover using 100 sample pixels for each image. The
measurements are then compared with measurements taken from other data images
acquired in the same geographic areas over a span of years.
Test studies so far show the innovative aerial process to be efficient and
cost-effective for monitoring both dry and wet rangeland areas. Copies of the
new applications can be obtained by contacting Booth at
more about the research in the February 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.