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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » SWRC » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #310450

Research Project: Ecohydrological Processes, Scale, Climate Variability, and Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Development of an integrated multi-platform approach for assessing brush management conservation efforts in semiarid rangelands

Author
item Holifield Collins, Chandra
item KAUTZ, M. - University Of Arizona
item PONCE-CAMPOS, G. - University Of Arizona
item HOTTENSTEIN, J. - University Of Arizona
item METZ, L. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS)
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/7/2015
Publication Date: 5/7/2015
Citation: Holifield Collins, C.D., Kautz, M., Ponce-Campos, G., Hottenstein, J., Metz, L. 2015. Development of an integrated multi-platform approach for assessing brush management conservation efforts in semiarid rangelands. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS). 9:1-15. https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JRS.9.096057.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JRS.9.096057

Interpretive Summary: Increases in woody species on rangeland systems are a common occurrence worldwide, but when left unchecked can lead to degradation and loss of eco-system function. Millions of dollars have been spent on brush management, or removal of unwanted woody vegetation, as a conservation practice to control the presence of woody species. With such a large investment of resources, it is essential that there be a mechanism for evaluating the effectiveness of this practice over space and time. Using on-the-ground resources alone to evaluate the vast landscape where brush management is implemented is not feasible and a new large-area method is required. An integrated multi-platform approach was developed using no-cost, high resolution aerial photography and moderate resolution Landsat satellite imagery to produce large-area temporal maps of woody cover. These maps were then used to assess effectiveness of the brush management conservation practice on two sites on a ranch in southeastern Arizona. Results showed that it was possible to produce accurate maps of woody cover that could be used to successfully track the occurrence of brush removal, as well as monitor presence or lack of subsequent reemergence. This work provides land managers with an operational means of determining where to allocate resources to implement brush management, as well as a cost effective method of monitoring the effects of their efforts.

Technical Abstract: Millions of dollars have been spent on brush management, or removal of unwanted woody vegetation, as a conservation practice to control the presence of woody species. Land managers need an inexpensive means of monitoring the effects of brush management conservation methods for decreasing degradation in rangeland systems. In this study, high resolution (1m) imagery from the National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) and moderate resolution (30m) Landsat-5 TM imagery were combined to produce a large-scale, no-cost technique for mapping woody cover. Validation of the resulting algorithm was performed using very high resolution (0.3m) National Resource Inventory (NRI) imagery. The newly developed spatial maps of woody cover were used to assess the effectiveness of brush removal treatments for two sites on the Empire Ranch in southeastern Arizona. Results showed that the developed algorithm produced accurate (RMSE = 8.7%) maps of woody cover that could be used to successfully track the occurrence of brush removal, as well as monitor presence or lack of subsequent reemergence. This work provides land managers with an operational means of determining where to allocate resources to implement brush management, as well as a cost effective method of monitoring the effects of their efforts.