|Beck, J -|
Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 12, 2011
Publication Date: December 30, 2012
Citation: Beck, J.L., Booth, D.T., Kennedy, C.L. 2012. Assessing greater sage-grouse breeding habitat with aerial and ground imagery. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts No. 0126. Technical Abstract: Agricultural expansion, housing and energy developments, wildfires, and weedy plant invasions have led to loss and fragmentation of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitats within the Intermountain West. Sagebrush-dependent species such as greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are vulnerable to these changes, emphasizing the importance of habitat inventory and monitoring to management. Existing habitat inventory methods are expensive, hindering data collection to support management decisions. Our study evaluated the feasibility of ground and aerial imagery to assess habitat structural features, vegetation associations, and sources of anthropogenic disturbance within a large landscape used by sage-grouse as breeding habitat (lekking, nesting, and brood-rearing). We surveyed ~526 km2 of the upper Powder River watershed in Natrona County, Wyoming, USA, dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata wyomingensis) upland communities interspersed with narrow riparian corridors. Our study area included 16 leks and provided year-round habitat to sage-grouse. In June 2010, we systematically-acquired 3,228 aerial images, additional aerial images in rapid-succession bursts where aerial transects crossed riparian areas, and 960 ground images. We used SamplePoint to quantify cover from images for important species and plant functional groups and color-infrared imagery to compare vegetation associations to those quantified from aerial images. Our findings included canopy cover of sage-grouse food forbs within 3.2 km of leks, which—as measured from ground imagery, ranged from 3 to 14% in riparian areas and 1 to 7% in the uplands. This and other image-derived archival data imply that image-based habitat surveys are cost-effective methods for monitoring changes in sagebrush habitats across large landscapes.