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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #310644

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: The impact of land-use change on the 3-D structure of shrubland and dryland savanna ecosystems

Author
item Clark, Pat
item Washington-allen, Robert - University Of Knoxville
item Louhaichi, Mounir - International Center For Agricultural Research(ICARDA)
item Mude, Andrew - International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) - The Netherlands
item Liao, Chuan - Cornell University - New York
item Clifton, Kathryn - International Center For Agricultural Research(ICARDA)

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/14/2014
Publication Date: 3/9/2015
Citation: Clark, P., Washington-Allen, R.A., Louhaichi, M., Mude, A., Liao, C., Clifton, K. 2015. The impact of land-use change on the 3-D structure of shrubland and dryland savanna ecosystems [abstract]. 3rd UNCCD Scientific Conference.

Interpretive Summary: Drylands cover 41% of the terrestrial land surface and provide $1 trillion in ecosystem goods and services to 36% of the global population. However, the degree of dryland degradation is largely unknown, particularly, in terms impacts on livestock forage and carbon stocks from droughts and land- use practices. Subsistence pastoral societies are particularly vulnerable where drought- induced reduction of forage results in widespread livestock mortality, famine, and potentially human mortalities. Newly implemented livestock insurance programs in northern Kenya & southern Ethiopia may provide avenues for stock replenishment and thus renewal of livelihoods on drylands. However, robust indicators of livestock mortality associated with drought-induced forage loss are required. Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) or ground light detection-and-ranging (LIDAR) is a remote sensing technology that has been successfully used in dryland ecosystems to assess changes in the three-dimensional (3D) structure of soil and vegetation, including soil sediment loads and vegetation biomass. These changes are diagnostic of impacts from grazing, drought, fire, and wind and water erosion. Consequently, local scale TLS linked to regional scale satellite imagery may provide an indicator of critical forage loss due to drought.

Technical Abstract: The full magnitude of degradation occurring in drylands is largely unknown, particularly, in terms impacts on livestock forage and carbon stocks from droughts and land-use practices. We investigated whether local-scale, terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) could be linked to regional- scale satellite imagery to provide an accurate indicator of critical forage loss due to drought and land-use change in the Middle East (Jordan) and East Africa (Ethiopia) regions. Differences in vegetation structure and soil surface characteristics were readily detected between paired-plots representing different land-use types using TLS scans. This research forms a foundation for future development of TLS monitoring technologies and for linking such ground-based data to airborne light detection-and-ranging (LiDAR) systems and satellite remote-sensing products for accurate condition assessments of extensive dryland areas.